Amino Acids

, Volume 13, Issue 3–4, pp 355–367 | Cite as

Novel findings on the copper catalysed oxidation of cysteine

  • L. Pecci
  • G. Montefoschi
  • G. Musci
  • D. Cavallini
Review Article


The oxidation of cysteine (RSH) has been studied by using O2, ferricytochrome c (Cyt c) and nitro blue tetrazolium (NBT) as electron acceptors. The addition of 200μM CuII to a solution of 2mM cysteine, pH 7.4, produces an absorbance with a peak at 260 nm and a shoulder at 300 nm. Generation of a cuprous bis-cysteine complex (RS-CuI-SR) is responsible for this absorbance. In the absence of O2 the absorbance is stable for long time while in the presence of air it vanishes slowly only when the cysteine excess is consumed. The neocuproine assay and the EPR analysis show that the metal remains reduced in the course of the oxidation of cysteine returning to the oxidised form at the end of reaction when all RSH has been oxidised to RSSR. Addition of CuII enhances the reduction rate of Cyt c and of NBT by cysteine also under anaerobiosis indicating the occurrence of a direct reduction of the acceptor by the complex. It is concluded that the cuprous bis-cysteine complex (RS-CuI-SR) is the catalytic species involved in the oxidation of cysteine. The novel finding of the stability of the complex together with the metal remaining in the reduced form during the oxidation suggest sulfur as the electron donor in the place of the metal ion.


Amino acids Cysteine Copper catalysis Cuprous complex 





cysteine in the thiolate form


thiyl radical of cysteine



Cyt c

cytochrome c


superoxide dismutase


nitro blue tetrazolium


nitro blue formazan


5,5′-dithiobis-2-nitrobenzoic acid


diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Pecci
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. Montefoschi
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. Musci
    • 3
  • D. Cavallini
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Biochimiche “A. Rossi Fanelli”Università di Roma “La Sapienza”RomaItaly
  2. 2.Centro di Biologia Molecolare del CNRUniversità di Roma “La Sapienza”Roma
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Chimica Organica e BiologicaUniversità di MessinaMessinaItaly

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