Liver-specific Commd1 knockout mice are susceptible to hepatic copper accumulation

Canine copper toxicosis is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by hepatic copper accumulation resulting in liver fibrosis and eventually cirrhosis. We have identified COMMD1 as the gene underlying copper toxicosis in Bedlington terriers. Although recent studies suggest that COMMD1 regulates hepatic copper export via an interaction with the Wilson disease protein ATP7B, its importance in hepatic copper homeostasis is ill-defined. In this study, we aimed to assess the effect of Commd1 deficiency on hepatic copper metabolism in mice. Liver-specific Commd1 knockout mice (Commd1(Δhep)) were generated and fed either a standard or a copper-enriched diet. Copper homeostasis and liver function were determined in Commd1(Δhep) mice by biochemical and histological analyses, and compared to wild-type littermates. Commd1(Δhep) mice were viable and did not develop an overt phenotype. At six weeks, the liver copper contents was increased up to a 3-fold upon Commd1 deficiency, but declined with age to concentrations similar to those seen in controls. Interestingly, Commd1(Δhep) mice fed a copper-enriched diet progressively accumulated copper in the liver up to a 20-fold increase compared to controls. These copper levels did not result in significant induction of the copper-responsive genes metallothionein I and II, neither was there evidence of biochemical liver injury nor overt liver pathology. The biosynthesis of ceruloplasmin was clearly augmented with age in Commd1(Δhep) mice. Although COMMD1 expression is associated with changes in ATP7B protein stability, no clear correlation between Atp7b levels and copper accumulation in Commd1(Δhep) mice could be detected. Despite the absence of hepatocellular toxicity in Commd1(Δhep) mice, the changes in liver copper displayed several parallels with copper toxicosis in Bedlington terriers. Thus, these results provide the first genetic evidence for COMMD1 to play an essential role in hepatic copper homeostasis and present a valuable mouse model for further understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying hepatic copper homeostasis.

W.I. Vonk, P. Bartuzi, P. de Bie, N. Kloosterhuis, C.G. Wichers, R. Berger, S. Haywood, L.W. Klomp, C. Wijmenga, B. van de Sluis
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2011; 6 (12): e29183
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Date of publication: 
December, 2011
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