Copper and the brain noradrenergic system

  • Svetlana LutsenkoEmail author
  • Clorissa Washington-Hughes
  • Martina Ralle
  • Katharina Schmidt
Mini Review
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Metal Ions and Degenerative Diseases


Copper (Cu) plays an essential role in the development and function of the brain. In humans, genetic disorders of Cu metabolism may cause either severe Cu deficiency (Menkes disease) or excessive Cu accumulation (Wilson disease) in the brain tissue. In either case, the loss of Cu homeostasis results in catecholamine misbalance, abnormal myelination of neurons, loss of normal brain architecture, and a spectrum of neurologic and/or psychiatric manifestations. Several metabolic processes have been identified as particularly sensitive to Cu dis-homeostasis. This review focuses on the role of Cu in noradrenergic neurons and summarizes the current knowledge of mechanisms that maintain Cu homeostasis in these cells. The impact of Cu misbalance on catecholamine metabolism and functioning of noradrenergic system is discussed.


Copper Catecholamines Dopamine-β-hydroxylase Locus coeruleus 



This work was supported by the National Institute of Health Grant R01 GM101502 to SL and R01 GM101502-S1 to CWH. The authors would like to thank O. Antipova for support and assistance with X-ray fluorescence microscopy data collection at the Advanced Photon Source part of the Argonne National laboratory supported by the Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under contract no. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts.


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Copyright information

© Society for Biological Inorganic Chemistry (SBIC) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svetlana Lutsenko
    • 1
    Email author
  • Clorissa Washington-Hughes
    • 1
  • Martina Ralle
    • 2
  • Katharina Schmidt
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyJohns Hopkins Medical InstitutesBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular and Medical GeneticsOregon Health and Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA
  3. 3.Boston Consulting Group, Stuttgart and UmgebungStuttgartGermany

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