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Differential expression of copper-associated and oxidative stress related proteins in a new variant of copper toxicosis in Doberman pinschers

Bart Spee1*, Paul JJ Mandigers1, Brigitte Arends1, Peter Bode2, Ted SGAM van den Ingh3, Gaby Hoffmann1, Jan Rothuizen1 and Louis C Penning1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

2 Interfacultary Reactor Institute, Delft University, The Netherlands

3 Department of Pathobiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

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Comparative Hepatology 2005, 4:3  doi:10.1186/1476-5926-4-3

Published: 24 March 2005



The role of copper accumulation in the onset of hepatitis is still unclear. Therefore, we investigated a spontaneous disease model of primary copper-toxicosis in Doberman pinschers so to gain insights into the pathophysiology of copper toxicosis, namely on genes involved in copper metabolism and reactive oxygen species (ROS) defences.


We used quantitative real-time PCR to determine differentially expressed genes within a target panel, investigating different groups ranging from copper-associated subclinical hepatitis (CASH) to a clinical chronic hepatitis with high hepatic copper concentrations (Doberman hepatitis, DH). Furthermore, a non-copper associated subclinical hepatitis group (N-CASH) with normal hepatic copper concentrations was added as a control. Most mRNA levels of proteins involved in copper binding, transport, and excretion were around control values in the N-CASH and CASH group. In contrast, many of these (including ATP7A, ATP7B, ceruloplasmin, and metallothionein) were significantly reduced in the DH group. Measurements on defences against oxidative stress showed a decrease in gene-expression of superoxide dismutase 1 and catalase in both groups with high copper. Moreover, the anti-oxidative glutathione molecule was clearly reduced in the DH group.


In the DH group the expression of gene products involved in copper efflux was significantly reduced, which might explain the high hepatic copper levels in this disease. ROS defences were most likely impaired in the CASH and DH group. Overall, this study describes a new variant of primary copper toxicosis and could provide a molecular basis for equating future treatments in dog and in man.