Copper—A Modern Bioelement

  • Marc SoliozEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Molecular Science book series (BRIEFSMOLECULAR)


From the analysis of the evolution of copper-containing enzymes, it emerges that copper is a modern bioelement. It was not used as an enzyme cofactor before the advent of oxygen evolution. In the anoxic world, copper in the biosphere was in its reduced, Cu+ state, which formed insoluble copper sulfide, promoted by the abundance of hydrogen sulfide in the atmosphere. Once the world became oxic, Cu+ was oxidized to Cu2+, which is readily soluble in the aqueous phase. The ensuing bioavailability of copper led to the evolution of cuproenzymes and copper-responsive regulators of gene expression. Indeed, all known copper-containing enzymes catalyze redox reactions involving oxygen in one form or another. Copper detoxification systems, on the other hand, have an earlier, independent evolutionary origin. The redox-active nature of copper of course makes it an ideal cofactor for redox enzymes, but also pose special experimental problems, which are discussed.


Evolution Copper Bioelement Anoxic world Cuproenzymes Primordial Copper sulfide 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Clinical ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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