The effects of exposure to copper under laboratory-controlled conditions were investigated in the pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata. Metal accumulation and the activity of five enzymes were measured: two immune defense involved enzymes [acid phosphatase (AcPase) and phenoloxidase (PO)], two antioxidant enzymes [superoxide dismutase (SOD) and Se-dependent glutathione peroxidase (Se-GPx)] and one metal-sensitive enzyme [alkaline phosphatase (ALP)]. Analyses were carried out in gills and digestive gland of oysters exposed to 0.05 μM and 0.5 μM copper, respectively, at 12, 24, 48 and 72 h of exposure. The digestive gland of P. fucata was the main copper accumulation organ when oysters were exposed to low concentrations, whereas gills became the target organ in oysters exposed to high concentrations. The adaptation and recovery of the oysters were observed in our study. Levels of the copper accumulation and the sensitivity to copper were the main, if not, part of the reasons for the various responses of the selected enzymes. Se-GPx may potentially be used as biomarkers in biotesting of marine heavy metal pollutions. The enzymatic responses were compared with those of other studies and the possible reasons were discussed. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.