Mutations to Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) linked to familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) enhance an unknown toxic reaction that leads to the selective degeneration of motor neurons. However, the question of how >50 different missense mutations produce a common toxic phenotype remains perplexing. We found that the zinc affinity of four ALS-associated SOD mutants was decreased up to 30-fold compared to wild-type SOD but that both mutants and wild-type SOD retained copper with similar affinity. Neurofilament-L (NF-L), one of the most abundant proteins in motor neurons, bound multiple zinc atoms with sufficient affinity to potentially remove zinc from both wild-type and mutant SOD while having a lower affinity for copper. The loss of zinc from wild-type SOD approximately doubled its efficiency for catalyzing peroxynitrite-mediated tyrosine nitration, suggesting that one gained function by SOD in ALS may be an indirect consequence of zinc loss. Nitration of protein-bound tyrosines is a permanent modification that can adversely affect protein function. Thus, the toxicity of ALS-associated SOD mutants may be related to enhanced catalysis of protein nitration subsequent to zinc loss. By acting as a high-capacity zinc sink, NF-L could foster the formation of zinc-deficient SOD within motor neurons.