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Mol Cell. 2007 Sep 21;27(6):1005-13.

Positive feedback regulates switching of phosphate transporters in S. cerevisiae.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, 7 Divinity Avenue, Bauer 307, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The regulation of transporters by nutrient-responsive signaling pathways allows cells to tailor nutrient uptake to environmental conditions. We investigated the role of feedback generated by transporter regulation in the budding yeast phosphate-responsive signal transduction (PHO) pathway. Cells starved for phosphate activate feedback loops that regulate high- and low-affinity phosphate transport. We determined that positive feedback is generated by PHO pathway-dependent upregulation of Spl2, a negative regulator of low-affinity phosphate uptake. The interplay of positive and negative feedback loops leads to bistability in phosphate transporter usage--individual cells express predominantly either low- or high-affinity transporters, both of which can yield similar phosphate uptake capacity. Cells lacking the high-affinity transporter, and associated negative feedback, exhibit phenotypes that arise from hysteresis due to unopposed positive feedback. In wild-type cells, population heterogeneity generated by feedback loops may provide a strategy for anticipating changes in environmental phosphate levels.

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