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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Nov;66(3):699-712. Epub 2007 Oct 4.

Glutathione and Gts1p drive beneficial variability in the cadmium resistances of individual yeast cells.

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School of Biology, Institute of Genetics, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK.


Phenotypic heterogeneity among individual cells within isogenic populations is widely documented, but its consequences are not well understood. Here, cell-to-cell variation in the stress resistance of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, particularly to cadmium, was revealed to depend on the antioxidant glutathione. Heterogeneity was decreased strikingly in gsh1 mutants. Furthermore, cells sorted according to differing reduced-glutathione (GSH) contents exhibited differing stress resistances. The vacuolar GSH-conjugate pathway of detoxification was implicated in heterogeneous Cd resistance. Metabolic oscillations (ultradian rhythms) in yeast are known to modulate single-cell redox and GSH status. Gts1p stabilizes these oscillations and was found to be required for heterogeneous Cd and hydrogen-peroxide resistance, through the same pathway as Gsh1p. Expression of GTS1 from a constitutive tet-regulated promoter suppressed oscillations and heterogeneity in GSH content, and resulted in decreased variation in stress resistance. This enabled manipulation of the degree of gene expression noise in cultures. It was shown that cells expressing Gts1p heterogeneously had a competitive advantage over more-homogeneous cell populations (with the same mean Gts1p expression), under continuous and fluctuating stress conditions. The results establish a novel molecular mechanism for single-cell heterogeneity, and demonstrate experimentally fitness advantages that depend on deterministic variation in gene expression within cell populations.

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