Are granulins copper sequestering proteins?

Anukool A. Bhopatkar, Vijayaraghavan Rangachari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Granulins (GRN 1-7) are short (~6 kDa), cysteine-rich proteins that are generated upon the proteolytic processing of progranulin (PGRN). These peptides, along with their precursor, have been implicated in multiple pathophysiological roles, especially in neurodegenerative diseases. Previously we showed that GRN-3 and GRN-5 are fully disordered in the reduced form implicating redox sensitive attributes to the proteins. Redox-based modulations are often carried out by metalloproteins in mitigating oxidative stress and maintaining metal-homeostasis within cells. To probe whether GRNs play a role in metal sequestration, we tested the metal binding propensity of the reduced forms of GRNs −3 and − 5 under neutral and acidic pH mimicking cytosolic and lysosomal conditions, respectively. We found, at neutral pH, both GRNs selectively bind Cu and no other divalent metal cations, with a greater specificity for Cu(I). Binding of Cu did not result in a disorder-to-order structural transition but partly triggered the multimerization of GRNs via uncoordinated cystines at both pH conditions. Overall, the results indicate that GRNs −3 and − 5 have surprisingly strong affinity for Cu in the pM range, comparable to other known copper sequestering proteins. The results also hint at a potential of GRNs to reduce Cu(II) to Cu(I), a process that has significance in mitigating Cu-induced ROS cytotoxicity in cells. Together, this report uncovers metal-coordinating property of GRNs for the first time, which may have profound significance in their structure and pathophysiological functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-461
Number of pages12
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • cysteine-rich
  • frontotemporal lobar degeneration
  • granulins
  • metalloproteins
  • progranulin
  • redox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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