Assembly of cytochrome c oxidase (COX), the terminal enzyme of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, requires a concerted activity of a number of chaperones and factors for the correct insertion of subunits, accessory proteins, cofactors and prosthetic groups. Most of the fundamental biological knowledge concerning mitochondrial copper homeostasis and insertion of copper into COX derives from investigations in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In this organism, Cox17 was the first identified factor involved in this pathway. It is a low molecular weight protein containing highly conserved twin Cx9C motifs and is localized in the cytoplasm as well as in the mitochondrial intermembrane space. It was shown that copper-binding is essential for its function. So far, the role of Cox17 in the mammalian mitochondrial copper metabolism has not been well elucidated. Homozygous disruption of the mouse COX17 gene leads to COX deficiency followed by embryonic death, which implies an indispensable role for Cox17 in cell survival. In this thesis, the role of COX17 in the biogenesis of the respiratory chain in HeLa cells was explored by use of siRNA. The knockdown of COX17 results in a reduced steady-state concentration of the copper-bearing subunits of COX and affects growth of HeLa cells accompagnied by an accumulation of ROS and apoptotic cells. Furthermore, in accordance with its predicted function as a copper chaperone and its role in formation of the binuclear copper center of COX, COX17 siRNA knockdown affects COX-activity and -assembly. It is now well accepted that the multienzyme complexes of the respiratory chain are organized in vivo as supramolecular functional structures, so called supercomplexes. While the abundance of COX dimers seems to be unaffected, blue native gel electrophoresis reveals the disappearance of COX-containing supercomplexes as an early response. Accumulation of a novel ~150 kDa complex containing Cox1, but not Cox2 could be observed. This observation may indicate that the absence of Cox17 interferes with copper delivery to Cox2, but not to Cox1. Data presented here suggest that supercomplex formation is not simply due to assembly of completely assembled complexes. Instead an interdependent assembly scenario for the formation of supercomplexes is proposed that requires the coordinated synthesis and association of individual complexes.