Copper-specific transcriptional repression of yeast genes encoding critical components in the copper transport pathway.
Copper is an essential micronutrient that is toxic in excess. To maintain an adequate yet non-toxic concentration of copper, cells possess several modes of control. One involves copper uptake mediated by genes encoding proteins that play key roles in high affinity copper transport. These include the FRE1-encoded Cu2+/Fe3+ reductase and the CTR1 and CTR3-encoded membrane-associated copper transport proteins. Each of these genes is transcriptionally regulated as a function of copper availability: repressed when cells are grown in the presence of copper and highly activated during copper starvation. Our data demonstrate that repression of CTR3 transcription is exquisitely copper-sensitive and specific. Although copper represses CTR3 gene expression at picomolar metal concentrations, cadmium and mercury down-regulate CTR3 expression only at concentrations 3 orders magnitude greater. Furthermore, copper-starvation rapidly and potently induces CTR3 gene expression. We demonstrate that the CTR1, CTR3, and FRE1 genes involved in high affinity copper uptake share a common promoter element, TTTGCTC, which is necessary for both copper repression and copper-starvation activation of gene expression. Furthermore, the Mac1p is essential for down- or up-regulation of the copper-transport genes. In vivo footprinting studies reveal that the cis-acting element, termed CuRE (copper-response element), is occupied under copper-starvation and accessible to DNA modifying agents in response to copper repression, and that this regulated occupancy requires a functional MAC1 gene. Therefore, yeast cells coordinately express genes involved in high affinity copper transport through the action of a common signaling pathway.
Labbé, S; Zhu, Z; Thiele, DJ
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