Transcriptional activation in yeast in response to copper deficiency involves copper-zinc superoxide dismutase.
Copper is an essential trace element, yet excess copper can lead to membrane damage, protein oxidation, and DNA cleavage. To balance the need for copper with the necessity to prevent accumulation to toxic levels, cells have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to regulate copper acquisition, distribution, and storage. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, transcriptional responses to copper deficiency are mediated by the copper-responsive transcription factor Mac1. Although Mac1 activates the transcription of genes involved in high affinity copper uptake during periods of deficiency, little is known about the mechanisms by which Mac1 senses or responds to reduced copper availability. Here we show that the copper-dependent enzyme Sod1 (Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase) and its intracellular copper chaperone Ccs1 function in the activation of Mac1 in response to an external copper deficiency. Genetic ablation of either CCS1 or SOD1 results in a severe defect in the ability of yeast cells to activate the transcription of Mac1 target genes. The catalytic activity of Sod1 is essential for Mac1 activation and promotes a regulated increase in binding of Mac1 to copper response elements in the promoter regions of genomic Mac1 target genes. Although there is precedent for additional roles of Sod1 beyond protection of the cell from oxygen radicals, the involvement of this protein in copper-responsive transcriptional regulation has not previously been observed. Given the presence of both Sod1 and copper-responsive transcription factors in higher eukaryotes, these studies may yield important insights into how copper deficiency is sensed and appropriate cellular responses are coordinated.
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