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Conceived and designed the experiments: JMO GP. Performed the experiments: MAP. Analyzed the data: JMO MAP GU JN GP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JN. Wrote the paper: GU GP.
Identifying causative biological networks associated with relevant phenotypes is essential in the field of systems biology. We used ferulic acid (FA) as a model antioxidant to characterize the global expression programs triggered by this small molecule and decipher the transcriptional network controlling the phenotypic adaptation of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
By employing a strict cut off value during gene expression data analysis, 106 genes were found to be involved in the cell response to FA, independent of aerobic or anaerobic conditions. Network analysis of the system guided us to a key target node, the FMP43 protein, that when deleted resulted in marked acceleration of cellular growth (~15% in both minimal and rich media). To extend our findings to human cells and identify proteins that could serve as drug targets, we replaced the yeast FMP43 protein with its human ortholog BRP44 in the genetic background of the yeast strain Δfmp43. The conservation of the two proteins was phenotypically evident, with BRP44 restoring the normal specific growth rate of the wild type. We also applied homology modeling to predict the 3D structure of the FMP43 and BRP44 proteins. The binding sites in the homology models of FMP43 and BRP44 were computationally predicted, and further docking studies were performed using FA as the ligand. The docking studies demonstrated the affinity of FA towards both FMP43 and BRP44.
This study proposes a hypothesis on the mechanisms yeast employs to respond to antioxidant molecules, while demonstrating how phenome and metabolome yeast data can serve as biomarkers for nutraceutical discovery and development. Additionally, we provide evidence for a putative therapeutic target, revealed by replacing the FMP43 protein with its human ortholog BRP44, a brain protein, and functionally characterizing the relevant mutant strain.