A novel method is reported for isolation of bovine caeruloplasmin from plasma; it involves a rapid and mild procedure, namely two column chromatographies with stepwise elution and one (NH4)2SO4 precipitation, and results in a proteolytically undegraded homogeneous protein. The general structure of the protein, as evaluated by molecular-weight determination and amino acid composition, is very similar to that established for human and rat caeruloplasmin. Copper determination and e.p.r. spectral analysis on the native and NO-treated protein gave a metal-to-protein stoichiometry of six atoms of copper per molecule. Three copper atoms were detectable by e.p.r., with Type 2/Type 1 ratio = 1 : 3 in most samples. The protein is very sensitive to storage and/or handling. A component was isolated from aged samples, which was found to contain approximately four copper atoms per 125000 daltons, two of which were detectable by e.p.r. with the characters of Type 2 copper. However, the same component was found to be present, although to a lesser extent, in the fresh preparation and does not seem to be related to proteolytic degradation. This component has no oxidase activity. On the basis of these results it is suggested that caeruloplasmin molecules are intrinsically heterogeneous with respect to both copper content and copper type, and this can explain the intriguing stoichiometry regarding the different types of copper centres.

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