Several Frankia strains have been shown to be copper-tolerant. The mechanism of their copper tolerance was investigated for Frankia sp. strain EuI1c. Copper binding was shown by binding studies. Unusual globular structures were observed on the surface of the bacterium. These globular structures were composed of aggregates containing many relatively smaller "leaf-like" structures. Scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray (SEM-EDAX) analysis of these structures indicated elevated copper and phosphate levels compared to the control cells. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) analysis indicated an increase in extracellular phosphate on the cell surface of copper-stressed cells. Bioinformatics' analysis of the Frankia sp. strain EuI1c genome revealed five potential cop genes: copA, copZ, copC, copCD, and copD. Experiments with Frankia sp. strain EuI1c using qRT-PCR indicated an increase in messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of the five cop genes upon Cu(2+) stress. After 5 days of Cu(2+) stress, the copA, copZ, copC, copCD, and copD mRNA levels increased 25-, 8-, 18-, 18-, and 25-fold, respectively. The protein profile of Cu(2+)-stressed Frankia sp. strain EuI1c cells revealed the upregulation of a 36.7 kDa protein that was identified as FraEuI1c_1092 (sulfate-binding periplasmic transport protein). Homologues of this gene were only present in the genomes of the Cu(2+)-resistant Frankia strains (EuI1c, DC12, and CN3). These data indicate that copper tolerance by Frankia sp. strain EuI1c involved the binding of copper to the cell surface and transport proteins.