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J Biol Chem. 2013 Apr 12;288(15):10672-83. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.455105. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Zinc deficiency impacts CO2 assimilation and disrupts copper homeostasis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Zinc is an essential nutrient because of its role in catalysis and in protein stabilization, but excess zinc is deleterious. We distinguished four nutritional zinc states in the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii: toxic, replete, deficient, and limited. Growth is inhibited in zinc-limited and zinc-toxic cells relative to zinc-replete cells, whereas zinc deficiency is visually asymptomatic but distinguished by the accumulation of transcripts encoding ZIP family transporters. To identify targets of zinc deficiency and mechanisms of zinc acclimation, we used RNA-seq to probe zinc nutrition-responsive changes in gene expression. We identified genes encoding zinc-handling components, including ZIP family transporters and candidate chaperones. Additionally, we noted an impact on two other regulatory pathways, the carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM) and the nutritional copper regulon. Targets of transcription factor Ccm1 and various CAH genes are up-regulated in zinc deficiency, probably due to reduced carbonic anhydrase activity, validated by quantitative proteomics and immunoblot analysis of Cah1, Cah3, and Cah4. Chlamydomonas is therefore not able to grow photoautotrophically in zinc-limiting conditions, but supplementation with 1% CO2 restores growth to wild-type rates, suggesting that the inability to maintain CCM is a major consequence of zinc limitation. The Crr1 regulon responds to copper limitation and is turned on in zinc deficiency, and Crr1 is required for growth in zinc-limiting conditions. Zinc-deficient cells are functionally copper-deficient, although they hyperaccumulate copper up to 50-fold over normal levels. We suggest that zinc-deficient cells sequester copper in a biounavailable form, perhaps to prevent mismetallation of critical zinc sites.

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