Folding of copper proteins: Role of the metal?
Copper is a redox-active transition metal ion required for the function of many essential human proteins. For biosynthesis of proteins coordinating copper, the metal may bind before, during or after folding of the polypeptide. If the metal binds to unfolded or partially folded structures of the protein, such coordination may modulate the folding reaction. The molecular understanding of how copper is incorporated into proteins requires descriptions of chemical, thermodynamic, kinetic and structural parameters involved in the formation of protein- metal complexes. Because free copper ions are toxic, living systems have elaborate copper-transport systems that include particular proteins that facilitate efficient and specific delivery of copper ions to target proteins. Therefore, these pathways become an integral part of copper protein folding in vivo. This review summarizes biophysical-molecular in vitro work assessing the role of copper in folding and stability of copper-binding proteins as well as protein-protein copper exchange reactions between human copper transport proteins. We also describe some recent findings about the participation of copper ions and copper proteins in protein misfolding and aggregation reactions in vitro.