CP12 is a small chloroplastic protein involved in the Calvin cycle that was shown to bind copper, a metal ion that is involved in the transition of CP12 from a reduced to an oxidized state. In order to describe CP12's copper-binding properties, copper-IMAC experiments and site-directed mutagenesis based on computational modelling, were coupled with top-down MS [electrospray-ionization MS and MS/MS (tandem MS)]. Immobilized-copper-ion-affinity-chromatographic experiments allowed the primary characterization of the effects of mutation on copper binding. Top-down MS/MS experiments carried out under non-denaturing conditions on wild-type and mutant CP12–Cu2+ complexes then allowed fragment ions specifically binding the copper ion to be determined. Comparison of MS/MS datasets defined three regions involved in metal ion binding: residues Asp16–Asp23, Asp38–Lys50 and Asp70–Glu76, with the two first regions containing selected residues for mutation. These data confirmed that copper ligands involved glutamic acid and aspartic residues, a situation that contrasts with that obtaining for typical protein copper chelators. We propose that copper might play a role in the regulation of the biological activity of CP12.

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