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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 18;6(1):e16099. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016099.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae Bat1 and Bat2 aminotransferases have functionally diverged from the ancestral-like Kluyveromyces lactis orthologous enzyme.

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Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Estructural, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México City, México.



Gene duplication is a key evolutionary mechanism providing material for the generation of genes with new or modified functions. The fate of duplicated gene copies has been amply discussed and several models have been put forward to account for duplicate conservation. The specialization model considers that duplication of a bifunctional ancestral gene could result in the preservation of both copies through subfunctionalization, resulting in the distribution of the two ancestral functions between the gene duplicates. Here we investigate whether the presumed bifunctional character displayed by the single branched chain amino acid aminotransferase present in K. lactis has been distributed in the two paralogous genes present in S. cerevisiae, and whether this conservation has impacted S. cerevisiae metabolism.


Our results show that the KlBat1 orthologous BCAT is a bifunctional enzyme, which participates in the biosynthesis and catabolism of branched chain aminoacids (BCAAs). This dual role has been distributed in S. cerevisiae Bat1 and Bat2 paralogous proteins, supporting the specialization model posed to explain the evolution of gene duplications. BAT1 is highly expressed under biosynthetic conditions, while BAT2 expression is highest under catabolic conditions. Bat1 and Bat2 differential relocalization has favored their physiological function, since biosynthetic precursors are generated in the mitochondria (Bat1), while catabolic substrates are accumulated in the cytosol (Bat2). Under respiratory conditions, in the presence of ammonium and BCAAs the bat1Δ bat2Δ double mutant shows impaired growth, indicating that Bat1 and Bat2 could play redundant roles. In K. lactis wild type growth is independent of BCAA degradation, since a Klbat1Δ mutant grows under this condition.


Our study shows that BAT1 and BAT2 differential expression and subcellular relocalization has resulted in the distribution of the biosynthetic and catabolic roles of the ancestral BCAT in two isozymes improving BCAAs metabolism and constituting an adaptation to facultative metabolism.

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