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Mol Biol Cell. 2007 Dec;18(12):4741-9. Epub 2007 Sep 19.

Copper and manganese induce yeast apoptosis via different pathways.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Biomembrane and Membrane Biotechnology, Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.


Metal ions are essential as well as toxic to the cell. The mechanism of metal-induced toxicity is not well established. Here, for the first time we studied two essential nutritional elements, copper and manganese, for their apoptotic effects in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Although beneficial at subtoxic levels, we demonstrated that at moderately toxic levels, both metals induce extensive apoptosis in yeast cells. At even higher concentrations, necrosis takes over. Furthermore, we investigated the molecular pathways mediating Cu- and Mn-mediated apoptotic action. Mitochondria-defective yeast exhibit a much reduced apoptotic marker expression and better survival under Cu and Mn stress, indicating mitochondria are involved in both Cu- and Mn-induced apoptosis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated in high amounts in Cu- but not in Mn-induced cell death, and Cu toxicity can be alleviated by overexpression of superoxide dismutase 2, suggesting ROS mediate Cu but not Mn toxicity. Yeast metacaspase Yca1p is not involved in Cu-induced apoptosis, although it plays an important role in the Mn-induced process. A genetic screen identified Cpr3p, a yeast cyclophilin D homologue, as mediating the Cu-induced apoptotic program. Cpr3p mutant seems to eliminate Cu-induced apoptosis without affecting ROS production, while leaving necrosis intact. These results may provide important insight into a detailed understanding at the molecular and cellular level of metal toxicity and metal accumulation diseases.

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