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Cell Cycle. 2013 Jun 1;12(11):1704-12. doi: 10.4161/cc.24801. Epub 2013 May 1.

The cell death protease Kex1p is essential for hypochlorite-induced apoptosis in yeast.

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Institute of Molecular Biosciences, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


Following microbial pathogen invasion, the human immune system of activated phagocytes generates and releases the potent oxidant hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which contributes to the killing of menacing microorganisms. Though tightly controlled, HOCl generation by the myeloperoxidase-hydrogen peroxide-chloride system of neutrophils/monocytes may occur in excess and lead to tissue damage. It is thus of marked importance to delineate the molecular pathways underlying HOCl cytotoxicity in both microbial and human cells. Here, we show that HOCl induces the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), apoptotic cell death and the formation of specific HOCl-modified epitopes in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Interestingly, HOCl cytotoxicity can be prevented by treatment with ROS scavengers, suggesting oxidative stress to mediate the lethal effect. The executing pathway involves the pro-apoptotic protease Kex1p, since its absence diminishes HOCl-induced production of ROS, apoptosis and protein modification. By characterizing HOCl-induced cell death in yeast and identifying a corresponding central executor, these results pave the way for the use of Saccharomyces cerevisiae in HOCl research, not least given that it combines both being a microorganism as well as a model for programmed cell death in higher eukaryotes.


HOCl; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; apoptosis; hypochlorous acid; mitochondria; reactive oxygen species; yeast

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