Disruptions to iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters, essential cofactors for a broad range of proteins, cause widespread cellular defects resulting in human disease. A source of damage to Fe-S clusters is cuprous (Cu1+) ions. Since histone H3 enzymatically produces Cu1+ for copper-dependent functions, we asked whether this activity could become detrimental to Fe-S clusters. Here, the authors report that histone H3–mediated Cu1+ toxicity is a major determinant of cellular functional pool of Fe-S clusters. Inadequate Fe-S cluster supply, due to diminished assembly as occurs in Friedreich’s ataxia or defective distribution, causes severe metabolic and growth defects in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Decreasing Cu1+ abundance, through attenuation of histone cupric reductase activity or depletion of total cellular copper, restored Fe-S cluster–dependent metabolism and growth. These findings reveal an interplay between chromatin and mitochondria in Fe-S cluster homeostasis and a potential pathogenic role for histone enzyme activity and Cu1+ in diseases with Fe-S cluster dysfunction.

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