Rapid transcriptional autoregulation of a yeast metalloregulatory transcription factor is essential for high-level copper detoxification.
Copper detoxification in the yeast Candida glabrata is carried out in large part by a family of metallothionein (MT) genes: a unique MT-I gene, a tandemly amplified MT-IIa gene, and a single unlinked MT-IIb gene. In response to elevated environmental copper levels, members of this MT gene family are transcriptionally activated by a copper-dependent, sequence-specific DNA-binding transcription factor, AMT1. AMT1 shares several structural and functional features with the Saccharomyces cerevisiae copper metalloregulatory transcription factor ACE1, which is constitutively expressed and poised for rapid transcriptional responses to the toxic metal copper. In this paper, we demonstrate that AMT1 is subject to positive transcriptional autoregulation, which is exerted through binding of copper-activated AMT1 to a single copper responsive element in the AMT1 promoter. A nonautoregulatory amt1 mutant displayed a marked decrease in both copper tolerance and expression of the MT-II genes, which are critical for high-level copper detoxification in Candida glabrata. Kinetic analysis demonstrated the remarkably rapid AMT1 mRNA accumulation in the presence of copper, which is followed by increased expression of the metallothionein gene products. These results demonstrate that AMT1-positive autoregulation plays a critical role in metal detoxification and suggest that the rapid autoactivation of the AMT1 metalloregulatory transcription factor biosynthesis is essential for C. glabrata to quickly build up a cellular defense line to protect cells upon exposure to high environmental copper levels.
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