CutC is induced late during copper exposure and can modify intracellular copper content in Enterococcus faecalis
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Copper is a micronutrient that is required for proper metabolic functioning of most prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. To sustain an adequate supply of copper, a cell requires molecular mechanisms that control the metal content to avoid copper toxicity. This toxicity comes primarily from the reactivity of copper, which can lead to the generation of free radicals. In bacteria, two independent systems are responsible for maintaining the balance of copper within the cells (Cop and Cut family proteins). Previous studies describe CutC as a member of the Cut family that is probably involved in copper homeostasis. However, the role of CutC in copper homeostasis is still unclear. In this work, a homolog of CutC was studied in Enterococcus faecalis, a bacterial model for copper homeostasis. The molecular 3D model of efCutC shows the presence of triose phosphate isomerase (TIM) barrel motifs, previously described in CutC crystals from other organisms, which illustrates the conservation of amino acids with the potential ability to coordinate copper. Through quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), it was demonstrated that efcutC expression is induced late by copper stimulus, Interestingly this transcriptional response directly correlates with a significant increase in the intracellular copper concentration when the protein is absent in the bacteria, suggesting its participation in mechanisms related to efflux of the metal. Our results describe efCutC as a protein able to respond transcriptionally to copper and to participate in the control of copper homeostasis in E. faecalis. This bacterium is the first reported organism containing a cop operon and an active member of the Cut protein family.
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