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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 7, 1997; 94(1): 42–47.

A new pathway for vacuolar cadmium sequestration in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: YCF1-catalyzed transport of bis(glutathionato)cadmium


The yeast cadmium factor (YCF1) gene encodes an MgATP-energized glutathione S-conjugate transporter responsible for the vacuolar sequestration of organic compounds after their S-conjugation with glutathione. However, while YCF1 was originally isolated according to its ability to confer resistance to cadmium salts, neither its mode of interaction with Cd2+ nor the relationship between this process and organic glutathione-conjugate transport are known. Here we show through direct comparisons between vacuolar membrane vesicles purified from Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain DTY167, harboring a deletion of the YCF1 gene, and the isogenic wild-type strain DTY165 that YCF1 mediates the MgATP-energized vacuolar accumulation of Cd·glutathione complexes. The substrate requirements, kinetics and Cd2+/glutathione stoichiometry of cadmium uptake and the molecular weight of the transport-active complex demonstrate that YCF1 selectively catalyzes the transport of bis(glutathionato)cadmium (Cd·GS2). On the basis of these results—the Cd2+ hypersensitivity of DTY167, versus DTY165, cells, the inducibility of YCF1-mediated transport, and the rapidity and spontaneity of Cd·GS2 formation—this new pathway is concluded to contribute substantially to Cd2+ detoxification.

Keywords: ATP binding cassette transport protein, glutathione S-conjugate transporter, yeast cadmium factor protein, vacuolar membrane

A new class of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter responsible for MgATP-energized transport of organic compounds after their conjugation with glutathione (GSH) has recently been discovered. Formerly designated the GS-X pump (1), this transporter, or family of transporters, has been implicated in the extrusion of a broad range of S-conjugated compounds from the cytosol.

To date, two closely related GS-X pumps have been identified molecularly. These are the human multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP1) (2, 3) and the yeast cadmium factor (YCF1) protein (4, 5). MRP1 and YCF1 are 43% identical (63% similar) at the amino acid level, possess nucleotide binding folds with an equivalent spacing of conserved residues, and contain two subclass-specific structures, a central truncated cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator-like “regulatory” domain, rich in charged amino acids, and an ≈200-amino acid residue N-terminal extension (2, 4). MRP1 catalyzes the MgATP-energized transport of leukotriene C4 and related GSH S-conjugates (GS-conjugates) across the plasma membrane of mammalian cells (3, 6, 7). YCF1 catalyzes the transport of organic GS-conjugates into the vacuole of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (5).

Given the participation of both of these integral membrane proteins in the transport of organic GS-conjugates and their implied role in the elimination and/or sequestration of cytotoxic drugs, it is intriguing that the YCF1 gene was initially identified by screening a yeast genomic library for the ability of multicopy DNA fragments to confer resistance to cadmium salts in the growth medium (4). The question of how the vacuolar sequestration of organic GS-conjugates by YCF1 is related to Cd2+ resistance therefore arises. Specifically, is the detoxification of Cd2+ by YCF1 dependent on its interaction with GSH, as is the case for organic xenobiotics (5) and, if so, how does GSH exert its effects?

In this communication we address these questions to show that YCF1 is not only competent in the MgATP-energized transport of organic GS-conjugates but also Cd2+ after its complexation with GSH. Our findings demonstrate a new pathway for the vacuolar sequestration of Cd2+ in S. cerevisiae: YCF1-mediated transport of bis(glutathionato)cadmium (Cd·GS2).


Yeast Strains.

The two strains of S. cerevisiae used in these studies—DTY165 (MATα ura3-52 his6 leu2-3,-112 his3-Δ200 trp1-901 lys2-801 suc2-Δ) and the isogenic ycf1Δ mutant strain, DTY167 (MATα ura3-52 his6 leu2-3,-112 his3-Δ200 trp1-901 lys2-801 suc2-Δ, ycf1::hisG)—were manipulated as described (5, 8).

Isolation of Vacuolar Membrane Vesicles.

Vacuolar membrane vesicles were prepared as described (5), except that the dithiothreitol (1 mM) and EGTA (1 mM) present in the standard membrane isolation medium (5, 9) were removed to prevent the attenuation of YCF1-dependent Cd2+ transport otherwise exerted by these compounds (see Discussion). Vesiculated vacuolar membranes were subjected to three cycles of 50-fold dilution into simplified suspension medium (1.1 M glycerol/5 mM Tris·Mes, pH 8.0), centrifugation at 100,000 × g for 35 min, and resuspension in the same medium before use.

Purification of Cadmium·Glutathione Complexes.

Singly radiolabeled 109Cd·GSn and doubly radiolabeled 109Cd·[3H]GSn complexes were prepared by sequential gel-filtration and anion-exchange chromatography of the reaction products generated by incubating 20 mM 109CdSO4 (78.4 mCi/mmol; 1 Ci = 37 GBq) with 40 mM GSH or 40 mM [3H]GSH (240 mCi/mmol) in 15 ml 10 mM phosphate buffer (pH 8.0) containing 150 mM KNO3 at 45°C for 24 h. For gel-filtration, 2 ml aliquots of the reaction mixture were applied to a column (40 × 1.5 cm interior diameter) packed with water-equilibrated Sephadex G-15, eluted with deionized water, and 109Cd and/or 3H in the fractions was measured by liquid scintillation counting. The fractions encompassed by each of the two 109Cd·GSn peaks identified were pooled, lyophilized, and redissolved in 4 ml of loading buffer (5 mM Tris·Mes, pH 8.0). For anion-exchange chromatography, 0.5 ml aliquots of the resuspended lyophilizates from gel-filtration chromatography were applied to a Mono-Q HR5/5 column (Pharmacia) equilibrated with the same buffer. Elution was with a linear gradient of NaCl (0.5 ml/min; 0–500 mM) dissolved in loading buffer. The individual fractions corresponding to the major peaks of 109Cd obtained from the Mono-Q column (one each for the peaks resolved by gel-filtration chromatography) were pooled, lyophilized, and resuspended in 4 ml deionized water after liquid scintillation counting. Buffer salts were removed before transport measurements or mass spectrometry by passing the samples down a column (120 × 1.0 cm interior diameter) packed with water-equilibrated Sephadex G-15.

Measurement of 109Cd2+ Uptake.

MgATP-energized, uncoupler-insensitive 109Cd2+ uptake by vacuolar membrane vesicles was measured at 25°C in 200 μl reaction volumes containing 3 mM ATP, 3 mM MgSO4, 5 μM gramicidin-D, 10 mM creatine phosphate, 16 units/ml creatine phosphate kinase, 50 mM KCl, 400 mM sorbitol, and 25 mM Tris·Mes (pH 8.0), and the indicated concentrations of 109CdSO4, GSH, or 109Cd- and/or 3H-labeled purified Cd·GSn complexes as described (5) except that the wash media contained 100 μM CdSO4 in addition to sorbitol (400 mM) and Tris·Mes (3 mM, pH 8.0).

Pretreatment of DTY165 Cells with Cd2+ or 1-Chloro-2,4-Dinitrobenzene (CDNB).

For studies of the inducibility of YCF1 expression and YCF1-dependent transport, DTY165 cells were grown in yeast extract/peptone/dextrose (YPD) medium (8) for 24 h at 30°C to an OD600 of 1.0–1.2, pelleted by centrifugation and resuspended in fresh YPD medium containing CdSO4 (200 μM) or CDNB (150 μM). After washing in distilled water, total RNA was extracted and vacuolar membrane vesicles were prepared from the pretreated cells. Control RNA and membrane samples were prepared from DTY165 cells treated in an identical manner except that CdSO4 and CDNB were omitted from the second incubation cycle.

RNase Protection Assays.

Cd2+ and CDNB-elicited increases in YCF1 mRNA levels were assayed by RNase protection using 18S rRNA as an internal control. YCF1-specific probe was generated by PCR amplification of the full-length YCF1::HA gene, encoding human influenza hemagglutinin 12CA5 (HA) epitope-tagged YCF1, using plasmid pYCF1-HA (5) as template. The forward, YCF1-specific, primer and backward primer, containing the HA-tag coding sequence, had the sequences 5′-AAACTCGAGATGGCTGGTAATCTTGTTTC-3′ and 5′-GCCTCTAGATCAAGCGTAGTCTGGGACGTCGTATGGGTAATTTTCATTGA-3′, respectively. 18S rRNA-specific probe was synthesized by PCR of S. cerevisiae genomic DNA using sense and antisense primers with the sequences 5′-AGATTAAGCCATGCATGTCT-3′ and 5′-TGCTGGTACCAGACTTGCCCTCC-3′, respectively. Both PCR products were individually subcloned into pCRII vector (Invitrogen) to generate plasmids pCR-YCF1 and pCR-Y18S. After linearization of pCR-YCF1 and pCR-Y18S with AflI and NcoI, a 320-nucleotide YCF1-specific RNA probe and 220-nucleotide 18S rRNA-specific probe were synthesized using T7 RNA polymerase and SP6 RNA polymerase, respectively. Aliquots of total RNA, prepared as described (10), from control, CdSO4-, or CDNB-pretreated DTY165 cells were hybridized with a mixture of 32P-labeled YCF1 antisense probe (1 × 106 cpm) and 18S rRNA antisense probe (5 × 102 cpm), and RNase protection (11) was assayed using an RPAII kit (Ambion).

Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry (MALD-MS).

The 109Cd·GSn complexes purified by gel-filtration and anion-exchange chromatography were adjusted to a final concentration of 2–5 mM (as Cd) with deionized water, mixed with an equal volume of sinapinic acid (10 mg/ml) dissolved in acetonitrile/H2O/trifluoroacetic acid (70:30:0.1%, vol/vol) and applied to the ion source of a PerSeptive Biosystems (Cambridge, MA) Voyager RP Biospectrometry Workstation. The instrument, which was equipped with a 1.3-m flight tube and variable two-stage ion source set at 30 kV, was operated in linear mode. Mass/charge (m/z) ratio was measured by time-of-flight after calibration with external standards.

Protein Assays.

Protein was estimated by a modification of the method of Peterson (12).


[3H]GSH [(glycine-2-3H)-l-Glu-Cys-Gly; 4.4 Ci/mmol] was from DuPont/NEN, and 109CdSO4 (78.44 Ci/mmol) was from Amersham. All other reagents were of analytical grade and purchased from Fisher, Fluka, Research Organics, or Sigma or synthesized as described (5).


ycf1Δ Mutants Are Defective in GSH-Dependent Cd2+ Transport.

Physiological (1 mM) concentrations of GSH (13) promoted Cd2+ uptake by vacuolar membrane vesicles purified from the wild-type strain DTY165 but not the ycf1Δ mutant strain DTY167 (Fig. (Fig.1).1). Addition of Cd2+ (80 μM) to GSH-containing media elicited MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive 109Cd2+ uptake rates of 4.5 and 0.8 nmol/mg per min by DTY165 and DTY167 membranes, respectively (Fig. (Fig.11 A and B). Uptake by DTY165 membranes was diminished more than 9-fold by the omission of GSH (Fig. (Fig.11A) whereas uptake by DTY167 membranes was slightly stimulated (Fig. (Fig.11B).

Figure 1
Uptake of Cd2+ into vacuolar membrane vesicles purified from DTY165 and DTY167 cells. Uptake of 109Cd2+ by DTY165 membranes (A) or DTY167 membranes (B) was measured in the absence of MgATP plus (○) or minus GSH (1 mM) (□) ...

GSH maximally stimulated uptake within minutes (t½ < 5 min) of the addition of Cd2+ to the uptake medium (data not shown) and uptake was sigmoidally dependent on Cd2+ concentration, achieving half-maximal velocity at 120 μM (Fig. (Fig.11C).

Specific Requirement for GSH.

The stimulatory action of GSH was abolished by the omission of MgATP from the assay medium (Fig. (Fig.11 and Table Table1),1), and 1 mM concentrations of oxidized GSH (GSSG), S-methylglutathione, cysteinylglycine, cysteine, or glutamate did not promote MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive Cd2+ uptake by vacuolar membrane vesicles from either strain (Table (Table1).1).

Table 1
Effects of different GSH-related compounds on uncoupler-insensitive 109Cd uptake by vacuolar membrane vesicles purified from DTY165 and DTY167 cells

Purification of Transport-Active Complex.

To determine the mode of action of GSH and the form in which Cd2+ is transported, reaction mixtures initially containing Cd2+ and GSH were fractionated and YCF1-dependent uptake was assayed.

Incubation of 109Cd2+ with GSH and gel-filtration of the mixture on Sephadex G-15 yielded two major 109Cd-labeled peaks: a low molecular weight peak [LMW-mono(glutathionato)cadium (Cd·GS)] and a high molecular weight peak (HMW-Cd·GS) (Fig. (Fig.22A). When rechromatographed on Mono-Q, LMW-Cd·GS and HMW-Cd·GS eluted at 0 (Fig. (Fig.22C) and 275 mM NaCl, respectively (Fig. (Fig.22B). Of these two 109Cd-labeled components, HMW-Cd·GS, alone, underwent YCF1-dependent transport. MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive HMW-109Cd·GS uptake by DTY165 membranes increased as a single Michaelian function of concentration (Km, 39.1 ± 14.1 μM; Vmax, 157.2 ± 30.4 nmol/mg/10 min) (Fig. (Fig.33A). By contrast, uptake of LMW-109Cd·GS by DTY165 membranes was negligible at all of the concentrations examined (Fig. (Fig.33B). Vacuolar membranes from DTY167 cells transported neither HMW-109Cd·GS nor LMW-109Cd·GS (Fig. (Fig.3).3).

Figure 2
Purification of cadmium·glutathione complexes by gel-filtration (A) and anion-exchange chromatography (B and C). 109CdSO4 (20 mM) was incubated with 40 mM GSH at 45°C for 24 h, and the mixture was chromatographed on Sephadex G-15 to resolve ...
Figure 3
Kinetics of MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive 109Cd·GS2 (HMW-109Cd·GS; A) and 109Cd·GS (LMW-109Cd·GS; B) uptake. S-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)glutathione (DNP-GS) was added at the concentrations (μM) indicated to DTY165 ...

Cd·GS2 Is the Transport-Active Complex.

The transport-active complex, HMW-Cd·GS, was identified as Cd·GS2 by three criteria. (i) The average Cd/GS molar ratio of the transported species, estimated from the 109Cd/3H ratios of the HMW-Cd·GS peaks obtained after chromatography of reaction mixtures initially containing 109Cd2+ and [3H]GSH on Sephadex G-15 and Mono-Q were 0.44 ± 0.09 and 0.49 ± 0.17, respectively (Table (Table2).2). (ii) DTY165 membranes accumulated 109Cd and [3H]GS in a molar ratio of 0.49 ± 0.01 when incubated in media containing HMW-109Cd·[3H]GS, MgATP, and gramicidin-D (Table (Table2).2). (iii) The principal ion peak detected after MALD-MS of HMW-Cd·GS had an m/z ratio of 725.4 ± 0.7, consistent with the molecular weight of Cd·GS2 (724.6 Da, Fig. Fig.4).4). The transport-inactive complex, LMW-Cd·GS, on the other hand, was tentatively identified as Cd·GS on the basis of its smaller apparent molecular size (Fig. (Fig.22A), failure to bind Mono-Q (Fig. (Fig.22C), and Cd/GS ratio of 0.67 ± 0.04 and 0.86 ± 0.07 after chromatography on Sephadex G-15 and Mono-Q (Table (Table2),2), respectively.

Table 2
Molar Cd/GS ratios of LMW-Cd·GS and HMW-Cd·GS complexes fractionated by Sephadex G-15 and Mono-Q chromatography (Fig. (Fig.2)2) before and after MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive uptake by vacuolar membrane vesicles ...
Figure 4
Matrix-assisted laser desorption mass spectrometry of HMW-Cd·GS. MALD-MS was performed on Sephadex G-15-, Mono-Q-purified HMW-Cd·GS as described. The molecular structure inferred from a mean m/z ratio of 725.4 ± 0.7 (n ...

While an m/z ratio of 725 for HMW-Cd·GS would be equally compatible with the transport of Cd·GSSG, this is refuted by two findings: (i) GSSG, alone, does not promote YCF1-dependent uptake (Table (Table1),1), and (ii) the transport-active complex is probably a mercaptide. Pretreatment of HMW-Cd·GS with 2-mercaptoethanol inhibits MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive Cd2+ uptake by DTY165 membranes by more then 80% (Table (Table2),2), and S-methylation abolishes the stimulatory action of GSH (Table (Table11).

Cd·GS2 Transport Is Directly Energized by MgATP.

Purification of Cd·GS2 enabled the energy requirements of YCF1-dependent transport to be examined directly and confirmed that more than 83% of the MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive Cd2+ transport measured using DTY165 membranes was mediated by YCF1. Agents that dissipate both the ΔpH and Δψ components of the H+-electrochemical gradient established by the vacuolar H+-ATPase [V-ATPase; carbonylcyanide p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone (FCCP), gramicidin-D] or directly inhibit the V-ATPase, itself (bafilomycin A1), decreased MgATP-dependent Cd·GS2 uptake by vacuolar membrane vesicles from DTY165 cells by 22% (Table (Table3).3). Ammonium chloride, which abolishes ΔpH while leaving Δψ unaffected, on the other hand, inhibited uptake by only 15% (Table (Table3).3). From these results and the inability of uncouplers to markedly increase the inhibitions caused by V-ATPase inhibitors, alone (Table (Table3),3), Cd·GS2 uptake by wild-type membranes is inferred to proceed via a YCF1-dependent, MgATP-energized pathway that accounts for most of the transport measured and a YCF1-independent pathway, primarily driven by the H+-gradient established by the V-ATPase, that makes a minor contribution to total uptake.

Table 3
Effects of uncouplers and V-ATPase inhibitors on uptake of Cd·GS2 by vacuolar membrane vesicles purified from DTY165 and DTY167 cells

Cd·GS2 Competes with DNP-GS for Transport.

As would be predicted if Cd·GS2 and the model organic GS-conjugate, DNP-GS, follow the same transport pathway, the Ki for inhibition of MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive Cd·GS2 uptake by DNP-GS (11.3 ± 2.1 μM; Fig. Fig.33 A and C) coincided with the Km for DNP-GS transport (14.1 ± 7.4 μM, ref. 5).

Pretreatment with Cd2+ or CDNB Increases YCF1 Expression.

RNase protection assays of YCF1 expression in DTY165 cells and measurements of MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive 109Cd·GS2 and [3H]DNP-GS uptake by vacuolar membranes prepared from the same cells after 24 h of growth in media containing CdSO4 (200 μM) or the cytotoxic DNP-GS precursor, CDNB (150 μM), demonstrated a parallel increase in all three quantities. YCF1-specific mRNA levels were increased by 1.9- and 2.5-fold by pretreatment of DTY165 cells with CdSO4 and CDNB, respectively (Fig. (Fig.5).5). The same pretreatments increased MgATP-dependent, uncoupler-insensitive 109Cd·GS2 uptake into vacuolar membrane vesicles by 1.4- and 1.7-fold and [3H]DNP-GS uptake by 1.6- and 2.8-fold (Fig. (Fig.5).5).

Figure 5
Induction of YCF1 expression and YCF1-dependent Cd·GS2 and DNP-GS transport by pretreatment of DTY165 cells with CdSO4 (Cd2+, 200 μM) or CDNB (150 μM) for 24 h. YCF1-specific mRNA and 18S rRNA were detected in the total ...


These investigations provide an indication of the mechanism by which YCF1 confers Cd2+ resistance in S. cerevisiae and its relationship to the transport of organic GS-conjugates by demonstrating that the integral membrane protein encoded by this gene specifically catalyzes the MgATP-energized uptake of Cd·GS2 by vacuolar membrane vesicles. The codependence of Cd·GS2 and organic GS-conjugate transport on YCF1 is evident at multiple levels. (i) The ycf1Δ mutant strain, DTY167, is hypersensitive to Cd2+ and CDNB in the growth medium, and both hypersensitivities are alleviated by transformation with plasmid-borne YCF1 (4, 5). (ii) Vacuolar membrane vesicles purified from DTY167 cells are grossly impaired for MgATP-energized, uncoupler-insensitive organic GS-conjugate and GSH-promoted Cd2+ uptake. (iii) Cd·GS2 and organic GS-conjugate compete for the same uptake sites on YCF1. (iv) Factors that increase YCF1 expression elicit a parallel increase in Cd·GS2 and organic GS-conjugate transport. Thus, a number of ostensibly disparate observations—the strong association between cellular GSH levels and Cd2+ resistance (e.g., ref. 15), the markedly increased sensitivity of vacuole deficient S. cerevisiae strains to Cd2+ toxicity (M.S. and D.J.T., unpublished results), and the coordinate regulation of the yeast YCF1 and GSH1 genes, the latter of which encodes γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (16, 17)—are now explicable in terms of a model in which YCF1 catalyzes the GSH-dependent vacuolar sequestration of Cd2+.

While Tommasini et al. (18) have recently confirmed our earlier findings (5) by showing that YCF1 is a vacuolar GS-conjugate transporter, and gone on to demonstrate that transformation with human MRP1 suppresses the ycf1Δ mutation, their results differ from ours in their inability to detect MgATP-energized, GSH-dependent Cd2+ uptake by microsomes from MRP1-transformed yeast. Because of this and their failure to inhibit DNP-GS transport by the inclusion of GSH (1 mM) and Cd2+ (100–300 μM) in the uptake medium, these authors attribute the Cd2+ resistance conferred by MRP1 to a two-phase process: the initial transport of Cd2+ into the vacuole by H+/Cd2+ antiport and its subsequent complexation with an unknown binding molecule transported by MRP1. Two alternative conclusions therefore follow. Either MRP1 and YCF1 do not have precisely the same transport mechanism or Tommasini et al.’s inability to measure GSH-promoted Cd2+ transport has a methodological basis. Of these, the second explanation is the more likely. First, the idea that MRP1 and YCF1 use identical mechanisms for the uptake of organic GS-conjugates but different mechanisms for Cd2+ seems unnecessarily complicated when both transporters must encounter the same microenvironment in yeast. Second, the two-phase mechanism does not explain how MRP1 phenocopies YCF1 and how DNP-GS inhibits YCF1-dependent Cd·GS2 transport in a simple competitive manner. Third, inspection of the procedures employed by Tommasini et al (18)—methods originally developed in our laboratory for a different purpose (9)—reveals a critical technical error: systematic contamination of the Cd2+ uptake media with approximately 140 μM concentrations of dithiothreitol and EDTA. We know from preliminary experiments that these concentrations are more than sufficient to cause a near total abolition of GSH-dependent Cd2+ uptake by YCF1 while leaving organic GS-conjugate uptake unaffected. Dithiothreitol reacts with Cd2+ to form a transport-inactive dimercaptide (Z.-S.L. and P.A.R., unpublished results); EDTA chelates free Cd2+ to quench its reaction with GSH.

Further verification of the one-phase model is provided by the functional equivalence of YCF1 to MRP1 in all other regards. At the biochemical level, YCF1 specifically catalyzes the transport of Cd·GS2. This is the most straightforward explanation of the mass and 1:2 Cd/GS ratio of the transport-active complex and the finding that the concentration-dependence of uptake assumes a Michaelian, rather than sigmoidal, function with a moderately low Km when Cd·GS2 is purified from the other components present in a mixture of Cd2+ and GSH. Analogously, MRP1 catalyzes the transport of bis(glutathionato)platinum (Pt·GS2) (19). MALD-MS and 1H-NMR spectroscopy of the transport-active complex formed when the anticancer drug, cisplatin, is combined with GSH indicate that Pt spontaneously complexes with GSH in a 1:2 ratio. Two GSH molecules coordinate each Pt2+ ion via their cysteinyl sulfur and amino nitrogen atoms to generate the transport-active complex. At the cellular level, YCF1 and MRP1 confer resistance to and are induced by a similar spectrum of xenobiotics. YCF1 confers cross-resistance to organic xenobiotics and heavy metals (4, 5). Enhanced expression of MRP1 in mammalian cells is associated with cross-resistance to cisplatin and heavy metals, such as cadmium and arsenite, as well as GSH-conjugable drugs (7, 20). Expression of YCF1 is increased by exposure of cells to GSH-conjugable xenobiotics and Cd2+. Expression of MRP1 is increased by exposure of cells to arsenite, Cd2+ and Zn2+ (20).

The existence of phytochelatins (PCs), peptides consisting of repeating units of γ-glutamylcysteine followed by a C-terminal glycine [(γ-Glu-Cys)n-Gly], in the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe (21) and the isolation and characterization of the heavy metal tolerance (HMT1) gene, a six transmembrane span-single nucleotide binding fold (“single half”) ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter, responsible for vacuolar uptake of PC and Cd·PC, from the same organism (21, 22), prompts two related questions. Do similar mechanisms of Cd2+ sequestration operate in S. cerevisiae? Is YCF1 competent in the transport of Cd·PC as well as Cd·GS2? The first question has not been resolved but PCs are more widespread in fungi than was once thought. Although heavy metal detoxification in fungi has been largely attributed to metallothioneins (23), recent studies of Candida glabrata, S. cerevisiae, and Neurospora crassa also implicate PCs. Exposure of C. glabrata to copper salts stimulates metallothionein formation but exposure to cadmium salts stimulates PC formation (24). In both S. cerevisiae and N. crassa, PCs have been detected and in the latter synthesis is not only activated by Cd2+ but also Zn2+ (25). Interestingly, in all three organisms, PC2 is the dominant PC species found. Hence, the second question or a modification thereof. Given the structural resemblance between Cd·PC2 [Cd·(γ-Glu-Cys)2-Gly] and Cd·GS2, might YCF1 be able to transport either complex? The answer to this question is no: YCF1 does not transport PC2. PC2 fractions purified from S. pombe show no evidence of YCF1-dependent transport by vacuolar membrane vesicles isolated from S. cerevisiae irrespective of whether the PC preparations are complexed with Cd2+ or not (Z.-S.L. and P.A.R., unpublished results). The novelty of YCF1-mediated Cd·GS2 transport as a mechanism for the vacuolar sequestration of Cd2+ is therefore substantiated.


We thank Dr. K. Speicher (Wistar Institute, Philadelphia) for performing the MALD-MS analyses and Dr. Toshi Ishikawa (Pfizer Inc., Aichi, Japan) for stimulating discussions. This work was supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (NRICGP 9503007) and Department of Energy (DE-FG02-91ER20055) awarded to P.A.R., and by a National Institutes of Health National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences Grant 1RO1 ES06902 awarded to D.J.T. D.J.T. is a Burroughs Wellcome Toxicology Scholar.


Abbreviations: GSH, glutathione; GS-conjugate, GSH S-conjugates; Cd·GS, mono(glutathionato)cadmium; Cd·GS2, bis(glutathionato)cadmium; CDNB, 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene; DNP-GS, S-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)glutathione; MALD-MS, matrix-assisted laser desorption mass spectrometry; MRP1, human multidrug resistance-associated protein; YCF1, yeast cadmium factor protein; GSSG, oxidized GSH; HMW, high molecular weight; LMW, low molecular weight.


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