Metal of the month: copper

Copper pipesOur (belated) Metal of the Month for April is copper, a metal so commonplace in our lives that we probably forget its importance.  Historically, copper was the first metal to be worked by people, and the discovery that it could be hardened with a little tin to form the alloy bronze gave its name to the Bronze Age.  The biggest industrial usage of copper is in electrical equipment such as wiring and motors due to its great ability to conduct both heat and electricity.

But this is Metallomics, so what about biology?

Copper is an essential element because of its role as an enzyme cofactor.  Excess copper, however, is toxic, and an inability to properly utilise it can manifest as conditions like Wilson’s disease and Menke’s disease.  Many papers on copper’s role in biological systems have already been published in Metallomics and the field continues to generate much interest.  We’ve collected together some of those papers for you to enjoy, including a review on copper as a therapeutic agent, one on its toxicity, a perspective on a newly-discovered copper-binding protein and some papers with interesting insights on copper biology.

Copper coins

One pence and two pence coins in the UK are colloquially referred to as "coppers". Not to be mistaken with the slang for policemen...

Critical Review: Copper handling machinery of the brain
Svetlana Lutsenko, Ashima Bhattacharjee and Ann L. Hubbard
Metallomics, 2010,2, 596-608
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00006J

Minireview: Copper toxicity and the origin of bacterial resistance—new insights and applications
Christopher L. Dupont, Gregor Grass and Christopher Rensing
Metallomics, 2011,3, 1109-1118
DOI: 10.1039/C1MT00107H
From themed issue on Metal Toxicity

Minireview: Copper complexes as therapeutic agents
Clare Duncan and Anthony R. White
Metallomics, 2012,4, 127-138
DOI: 10.1039/C2MT00174H

Perspective: The puzzle posed by COMMD1, a newly discovered protein binding Cu(II)
Bibudhendra Sarkar and Eve A. Roberts
Metallomics, 2011,3, 20-27
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00031K

Oxidised copper

Oxidised copper has a characteristic blue/green colour.

Copper(I) and copper(II) binding to β-amyloid 16 (Aβ16) studied by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry
Yu Lu, Michel Prudent, Liang Qiao, Manuel A. Mendez and Hubert H. Girault
Metallomics, 2010,2, 474-479
DOI: 10.1039/C004693K

Copper proteomes, phylogenetics and evolution
Leonardo Decaria, Ivano Bertini and Robert J. P. Williams
Metallomics, 2011,3, 56-60
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00045K

A comparison of methionine, histidine and cysteine in copper(I)-binding peptides reveals differences relevant to copper uptake by organisms in diverse environments
Jeffrey T. Rubino, Michael P. Chenkin, Matthew Keller, Pamela Riggs-Gelasco and Katherine J. Franz
Metallomics, 2011,3, 61-73
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00044B

Don’t forget you can find out more about copper (and any other element) via the RSC Visual Elements Periodic Table – take a look!

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