The lack of synchronization between iron uptake and cell growth leads to iron overload in Saccharomyces cerevisiae during post-exponential growth modes.
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Fermenting cells growing exponentially on rich (YPAD) medium underwent a transition to a slow-growing state as glucose levels declined and their metabolism shifted to respiration. During exponential growth, Fe import and cell-growth rates were matched, affording an approximately invariant cellular Fe concentration. During the transition period, the high-affinity Fe import rate declined slower than the cell-growth rate declined, causing Fe to accumulate, initially as Fe(III) oxyhydroxide nanoparticles but eventually as mitochondrial and vacuolar Fe. Once the cells had reached slow-growth mode, Fe import and cell-growth rates were again matched, and the cellular Fe concentration was again approximately invariant. Fermenting cells grown on minimal medium (MM) grew more slowly during the exponential phase and underwent a transition to a true stationary state as glucose levels declined. The Fe concentration of MM cells that just entered the stationary state was similar to that of YPAD cells, but MM cells continued to accumulate Fe in the stationary state. Fe initially accumulated as nanoparticles and high-spin Fe(II) species, but vacuolar Fe(III) also eventually accumulated. Surprisingly, Fe-packed 5-day-old MM cells suffered no more reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage than younger cells, suggesting that the Fe concentration alone does not accurately predict the extent of ROS damage. The mode and rate of growth at the time of harvesting dramatically affected cellular Fe content. A mathematical model of Fe metabolism in a growing cell was developed. The model included the import of Fe via a regulated high-affinity pathway and an unregulated low-affinity pathway. The import of Fe from the cytosol to vacuoles and mitochondria and nanoparticle formation were also included. The model captured essential trafficking behavior, demonstrating that cells regulate Fe import in accordance with their overall growth rate and that they misregulate Fe import when nanoparticles accumulate. The lack of regulation of Fe in yeast is perhaps unique compared to the tight regulation of other cellular metabolites. This phenomenon likely derives from the unique chemistry associated with Fe nanoparticle formation.