The copper chaperone CCS facilitates copper binding to MEK1/2 to promote kinase activation

Michael Grasso, Gavin J. Bond, Ye Jin Kim, Stefanie Boyd, Maria Matson Dzebo, Sebastian Valenzuela, Tiffany Tsang, Natalie A. Schibrowsky, Katherine B. Alwan, Ninian J. Blackburn, George M. Burslem, Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, Duane D. Winkler, Ronen Marmorstein, Donita C. Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Normal physiology relies on the precise coordination of intracellular signaling pathways that respond to nutrient availability to balance cell growth and cell death. The canonical mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway consists of the RAFMEK- ERK signaling cascade and represents one of the most well-defined axes within eukaryotic cells to promote cell proliferation, which underscores its frequent mutational activation in human cancers. Our recent studies illuminated a function for the redox-active micronutrient copper (Cu) as an intracellular mediator of signaling by connecting Cu to the amplitude of mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling via a direct interaction between Cu and the kinases MEK1 and MEK2. Given the large quantities of molecules such as glutathione and metallothionein that limit cellular toxicity from free Cu ions, evolutionarily conserved Cu chaperones facilitate efficient delivery of Cu to cuproenzymes. Thus, a dedicated cellular delivery mechanism of Cu to MEK1/2 likely exists. Using surface plasmon resonance and proximity-dependent biotin ligase studies, we report here that the Cu chaperone for superoxide dismutase (CCS) selectively bound to and facilitated Cu transfer to MEK1. Mutants of CCS that disrupt Cu(I) acquisition and exchange or a CCS small-molecule inhibitor were used and resulted in reduced Cu-stimulated MEK1 kinase activity. Our findings indicate that the Cu chaperone CCS provides fidelity within a complex biological system to achieve appropriate installation of Cu within the MEK1 kinase active site that in turn modulates kinase activity and supports the development of novel MEK1/2 inhibitors that target the Cu structural interface or blunt dedicated Cu delivery mechanisms via CCS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101314
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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