Abstract Rapana thomasiana hemocyanin (RtH) is a mixture of two hemocyanin (Hc) isoforms termed RtH1 and RtH2. Both subunit types are built up of eight functional units (FUs). The C-terminal functional unit (RtH1- h) of the Rapana Hc subunit 1 has been isolated by limited trypsinolysis of the subunit polypeptide chain. The oxy- and apo-forms of the unit are characterized by fluorescence spectroscopy. Upon excitation of RtH1- h at 295 or 280 nm, tryptophyl residues buried in the hydrophobic interior of the protein globule determine the fluorescence emission. This is confirmed by quenching experiments with acrylamide, cesium chloride and potassium iodide. The copper–dioxygen system at the binuclear active site quenches the indole emission of the oxy-RtH1- h. The removal of this system increases the fluorescence quantum yield and causes structural rearrangement of the microenvironment of the emitting tryptophyl residues in the apo-RtH1- h. The thermal stability of the apo-RtH1- h is characterized fluorimetrically by the “melting” temperature T m (65 °C) and by the transition temperature T m (83 °C) obtained by differential scanning calorimetry for oxy-RtH1- h. The results confirm the role of the copper–dioxygen complex for the stabilization of the Hc structure in solution.