Single-cell tracking demonstrates copper chaperone Atox1 to be required for breast cancer cell migration
Journal article, 2020

Copper ions are needed for several hallmarks of cancer. However, the involved pathways, mechanisms, and copper-binding proteins are mostly unknown. We recently found that cytoplasmic Antioxidant 1 copper chaperone (Atox1), which is up-regulated in breast cancer, is localized at the lamellipodia edges of aggressive breast cancer cells. To reveal molecular insights into a putative role in cell migration, we here investigated breast cancer cell (MDA-MB-231) migration by video microscopy as a function of Atox1. Tracking of hundreds of individual cells (per condition) over a 9-h time series revealed that cell migration velocity and directionality are significantly reduced upon Atox1 silencing in the cells. Because silencing of the copper transporter ATP7A also reduced cell migration, these proteins appear to be on the same pathway, suggesting that their well-known copper transport activity is involved. In-cell proximity ligation assays demonstrated that Atox1, ATP7A, and the proenzyme of lysyl oxidase (LOX; copper-loaded via ATP7A) are all in close proximity and that LOX activity is reduced upon Atox1 silencing in the cells. Since LOX is an established player in cancer cell migration, our results imply that Atox1 mediates breast cancer cell migration via coordinated copper transport in the ATP7A-LOX axis. Because individual cell migration is an early step in breast cancer metastasis, Atox1 levels in tumor cells may be a predictive measure of metastasis potential and serve as a biomarker for copper depletion therapy.

Live imaging



Cell migration

Breast cancer


Stephanie Blockhuys

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Chemical Biology

Xiaolu Zhang

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Chemical Biology

Pernilla Wittung Stafshede

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Chemical Biology

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

0027-8424 (ISSN) 1091-6490 (eISSN)

Vol. 117 4 2014-2019

Subject Categories

Cell Biology

Cell and Molecular Biology

Medical Biotechnology (with a focus on Cell Biology (including Stem Cell Biology), Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry or Biopharmacy)





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