The Wilson protein (ATP7B) is a copper-translocating P-type ATPase that mediates the excretion of excess copper from hep-atocytes into bile. Excess copper causes the protein to traffic from the TGN (trans-Golgi network) to subapical vesicles. Using site-directed mutagenesis, mutations known or predicted to abrogate catalytic activity (copper translocation) were introduced into ATP7B and the effect of these mutations on the intracellular traf-ficking of the protein was investigated. Mutation of the critical aspartic acid residue in the phosphorylation domain (DKTGTIT) blocked copper-induced redistribution of ATP7B from the TGN, whereas mutation of the phosphatase domain [TGE (Thr-Gly-Glu)] trapped ATP7B at cytosolic vesicular compartments. Our findings demonstrate that ATP7B trafficking is regulated with its copper-translocation cycle, with cytosolic vesicular localization associated with the acyl-phosphate intermediate. In addition, mut-ation of the six N-terminal metal-binding sites and/or the trans-membrane CPC (Cys-Pro-Cys) motif did not suppress the consti-tutive vesicular localization of the ATP7B phosphatase domain mutant. These results suggested that copper co-ordination by these sites is not essential for trafficking. Importantly, copper-chelation studies with these mutants clearly demonstrated a requirement for copper in ATP7B trafficking, suggesting the presence of an additional copper-binding site(s) within the protein. The results presented in this report significantly advance our understanding of the regulatory mechanism that links copper-translocation activity with copper-induced intracellular trafficking of ATP7B, which is central to hepatic and hence systemic copper homoeostasis.

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