Mechanisms other than activation of the iron regulon account for the hyper-resistance to cobalt of a yeast strain obtained by evolutionary engineering

Alkim C, Benbadis L, Yilmaz U, Cakar P, François JM

Alkim C, Benbadis L, Yilmaz U, Cakar P, François JM

Cobalt is an important metal ion with magnetic properties that is widely used for several industrial applications. Overexposure to cobalt ions can be highly toxic for the organisms because they usually overwhelm the endogenous physiological system that maintains their homeostasis causing (geno)toxic effects. To gain insight into the mechanism of cobalt toxicity, we characterized at the molecular and genetic levels a cobalt resistant CI25E Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain previously isolated by an in vivo evolutionary engineering strategy, and which was able to grow on 5 to 10 mM CoCl2. This evolved strain showed cross-resistance to other metal ions including iron, manganese, nickel and zinc, but not to copper. Moreover, the cobalt resistant trait was semi-dominant, and linked to more than one gene, as indicated by the absence of 2(+):2(-) segregation of the cobaltresistance. Genome wide transcriptional profiling revealed a constitutive activation of the iron regulon that could be accounted for by a constitutive nuclear localization of the transcriptional activator Aft1. However, the presence of Aft1 in the nucleus was not a prerequisite for hyper-resistance tocobalt, since a mutant defective in nuclear monothiol glutaredoxin encoding GRX3 and GRX4 that also leads to nuclear localization of Aft1 wascobalt hypersensitive. In addition, the loss of AFT1 only partially abolished the cobalt resistance in the evolved strain, and the deletion of COT1 encoding the major vacuolar transporter of cobalt had only a minor effect on this trait. Paradoxically to the activation of iron regulon, the evolvedstrain was hypersensitive to the iron chelator BPS, and this hypersensitivity was abrogated by cobalt ions. Taken together, this work suggested thatcobalt resistance is not merely dependent upon activation of AFT1, but it likely implicates other mechanisms including intracellular reallocation ofiron into important compartments whose function is dependent on this metal and adaptation of some cellular proteins to use Co(2+) in place of Fe(2+) for their catalytic activities.


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