Maternofetal and neonatal copper requirements revealed by enterocyte-specific deletion of the Menkes disease protein. Academic Article uri icon


  • The essential requirement for copper in early development is dramatically illustrated by Menkes disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder of early childhood caused by loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the copper transporting ATPase ATP7A. In this study, we generated mice with enterocyte-specific knockout of the murine ATP7A gene (Atp7a) to test its importance in dietary copper acquisition. Although mice lacking Atp7a protein within intestinal enterocytes appeared normal at birth, they exhibited profound growth impairment and neurological deterioration as a consequence of copper deficiency, resulting in excessive mortality prior to weaning. Copper supplementation of lactating females or parenteral copper injection of the affected offspring markedly attenuated this rapid demise. Enterocyte-specific deletion of Atp7a in rescued pregnant females did not restrict embryogenesis; however, copper accumulation in the late-term fetus was severely reduced, resulting in early postnatal mortality. Taken together, these data demonstrate unique and specific requirements for enterocyte Atp7a in neonatal and maternofetal copper acquisition that are dependent on dietary copper availability, thus providing new insights into the mechanisms of gene-nutrient interaction essential for early human development.

publication date

  • December 1, 2012