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1.  Systematic identification of genes involved in metabolic acid stress resistance in yeast and their potential as cancer targets 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2016;9(9):1039-1049.
A hallmark of all primary and metastatic tumours is their high rate of glucose uptake and glycolysis. A consequence of the glycolytic phenotype is the accumulation of metabolic acid; hence, tumour cells experience considerable intracellular acid stress. To compensate, tumour cells upregulate acid pumps, which expel the metabolic acid into the surrounding tumour environment, resulting in alkalization of intracellular pH and acidification of the tumour microenvironment. Nevertheless, we have only a limited understanding of the consequences of altered intracellular pH on cell physiology, or of the genes and pathways that respond to metabolic acid stress. We have used yeast as a genetic model for metabolic acid stress with the rationale that the metabolic changes that occur in cancer that lead to intracellular acid stress are likely fundamental. Using a quantitative systems biology approach we identified 129 genes required for optimal growth under conditions of metabolic acid stress. We identified six highly conserved protein complexes with functions related to oxidative phosphorylation (mitochondrial respiratory chain complex III and IV), mitochondrial tRNA biosynthesis [glutamyl-tRNA(Gln) amidotransferase complex], histone methylation (Set1C–COMPASS), lysosome biogenesis (AP-3 adapter complex), and mRNA processing and P-body formation (PAN complex). We tested roles for two of these, AP-3 adapter complex and PAN deadenylase complex, in resistance to acid stress using a myeloid leukaemia-derived human cell line that we determined to be acid stress resistant. Loss of either complex inhibited growth of Hap1 cells at neutral pH and caused sensitivity to acid stress, indicating that AP-3 and PAN complexes are promising new targets in the treatment of cancer. Additionally, our data suggests that tumours may be genetically sensitized to acid stress and hence susceptible to acid stress-directed therapies, as many tumours accumulate mutations in mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes required for their proliferation.
Summary: Altered metabolism in tumours creates metabolic acid stress in tumour cells, which is a target for chemotherapeutics. We identify six new complexes with roles in resistance to metabolic acid stress.
PMCID: PMC5047693  PMID: 27519690
AP-3 complex; Hap1 cells; Mitochondria; PAN complex; Intracellular acid stress; Metabolism
2.  Identification of protein complexes with quantitative proteomics in S. cerevisiae 
Lipids are the building blocks of cellular membranes that function as barriers and in compartmentalization of cellular processes, and recently, as important intracellular signalling molecules. However, unlike proteins, lipids are small hydrophobic molecules that traffic primarily by poorly described nonvesicular routes, which are hypothesized to occur at membrane contact sites (MCSs). MCSs are regions where the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) makes direct physical contact with a partnering organelle, e.g., plasma membrane (PM). The ER portion of ER-PM MCSs is enriched in lipid-synthesizing enzymes, suggesting that lipid synthesis is directed to these sites and implying that MCSs are important for lipid traffic. Yeast is an ideal model to study ER-PM MCSs because of their abundance, with over 1000 contacts per cell, and their conserved nature in all eukaryotes. Uncovering the proteins that constitute MCSs is critical to understanding how lipids traffic is accomplished in cells, and how they act as signaling molecules. We have found that an ER called Scs2p localize to ER-PM MCSs and is important for their formation. We are focused on uncovering the molecular partners of Scs2p. Identification of protein complexes traditionally relies on first resolving purified protein samples by gel electrophoresis, followed by in-gel digestion of protein bands and analysis of peptides by mass spectrometry. This often limits the study to a small subset of proteins. Also, protein complexes are exposed to denaturing or non-physiological conditions during the procedure. To circumvent these problems, we have implemented a large-scale quantitative proteomics technique to extract unbiased and quantified data. We use stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) to incorporate staple isotope nuclei in proteins in an untagged control strain. Equal volumes of tagged culture and untagged, SILAC-labeled culture are mixed together and lysed by grinding in liquid nitrogen. We then carry out an affinity purification procedure to pull down protein complexes. Finally, we precipitate the protein sample, which is ready for analysis by high-performance liquid chromatography/ tandem mass spectrometry. Most importantly, proteins in the control strain are labeled by the heavy isotope and will produce a mass/ charge shift that can be quantified against the unlabeled proteins in the bait strain. Therefore, contaminants, or unspecific binding can be easily eliminated. By using this approach, we have identified several novel proteins that localize to ER-PM MCSs. Here we present a detailed description of our approach.
PMCID: PMC2789102  PMID: 19262458
3.  Regulation of lipid metabolism: a tale of two yeasts 
Current opinion in cell biology  2012;24(4):502-508.
Eukaryotic cells synthesize multiple classes of lipids by distinct metabolic pathways in order to generate membranes with optimal physical and chemical properties. As a result, complex regulatory networks are required in all organisms to maintain lipid and membrane homeostasis as well as to rapidly and efficiently respond to cellular stress. The unicellular nature of yeast makes it particularly vulnerable to environmental stress and yeast has evolved elaborate signaling pathways to maintain lipid homeostasis. In this article we highlight the recent advances that have been made using the budding and fission yeasts and we discuss potential roles for the unfolded protein response (UPR) and the SREBP-Scap pathways in coordinate regulation of multiple lipid classes.
PMCID: PMC4339016  PMID: 22694927
4.  A Conserved Endoplasmic Reticulum Membrane Protein Complex (EMC) Facilitates Phospholipid Transfer from the ER to Mitochondria 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(10):e1001969.
Tethering of the endoplasmic reticulum to mitochondria by a conserved endoplasmic reticulum complex is needed for the transfer of phospholipids between these organelles.
Mitochondrial membrane biogenesis and lipid metabolism require phospholipid transfer from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to mitochondria. Transfer is thought to occur at regions of close contact of these organelles and to be nonvesicular, but the mechanism is not known. Here we used a novel genetic screen in S. cerevisiae to identify mutants with defects in lipid exchange between the ER and mitochondria. We show that a strain missing multiple components of the conserved ER membrane protein complex (EMC) has decreased phosphatidylserine (PS) transfer from the ER to mitochondria. Mitochondria from this strain have significantly reduced levels of PS and its derivative phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). Cells lacking EMC proteins and the ER–mitochondria tethering complex called ERMES (the ER–mitochondria encounter structure) are inviable, suggesting that the EMC also functions as a tether. These defects are corrected by expression of an engineered ER–mitochondrial tethering protein that artificially tethers the ER to mitochondria. EMC mutants have a significant reduction in the amount of ER tethered to mitochondria even though ERMES remained intact in these mutants, suggesting that the EMC performs an additional tethering function to ERMES. We find that all Emc proteins interact with the mitochondrial translocase of the outer membrane (TOM) complex protein Tom5 and this interaction is important for PS transfer and cell growth, suggesting that the EMC forms a tether by associating with the TOM complex. Together, our findings support that the EMC tethers ER to mitochondria, which is required for phospholipid synthesis and cell growth.
Author Summary
Mitochondrial membrane biogenesis and lipid metabolism depend on the transfer of phospholipid from the endoplasmic reticulum to mitochondria. This transfer is thought to occur at regions where these organelles are in close contact, and, although the process is thought not to involve vesicles, the mechanism is not known. In this study, we found a complex of proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum that is required for the transfer of one phospholipid—phosphatidylserine—from the endoplasmic reticulum to mitochondria. Cells lacking this protein complex have nonfunctional mitochondria with an abnormal lipid composition. We show that the complex is required to maintain close contacts between the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria; the complex probably directly interacts with at least one protein on the surface of mitochondria. In addition, cells lacking this complex and a second previously identified tethering complex are not viable. Thus, our findings suggest that tethering of the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria is essential for cell growth, likely because it is necessary for lipid exchange between these organelles.
PMCID: PMC4196738  PMID: 25313861
5.  Lipids as conductors in the orchestra of life 
The lipid phosphatidic acid is an important metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of lipids in all eukaryotic cells, but it is even more than that. Phosphatidic acid is emerging as a lipid that is both composer and conductor, where in addition to its role as biosynthetic precursor (composer) it is also a potent signaling molecule (conductor) that integrates membrane biogenesis with nutrient sensing and cell growth. This article discusses recent advances in yeast that give praise for phosphatidic acid as one of life's conductors.
PMCID: PMC3270589  PMID: 22312416
6.  Inheritance of cortical ER in yeast is required for normal septin organization 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2007;179(3):467-483.
How cells monitor the distribution of organelles is largely unknown. In budding yeast, the largest subdomain of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a network of cortical ER (cER) that adheres to the plasma membrane. Delivery of cER from mother cells to buds, which is termed cER inheritance, occurs as an orderly process early in budding. We find that cER inheritance is defective in cells lacking Scs2, a yeast homologue of the integral ER membrane protein VAP (vesicle-associated membrane protein–associated protein) conserved in all eukaryotes. Scs2 and human VAP both target yeast bud tips, suggesting a conserved action of VAP in attaching ER to sites of polarized growth. In addition, the loss of either Scs2 or Ice2 (another protein involved in cER inheritance) perturbs septin assembly at the bud neck. This perturbation leads to a delay in the transition through G2, activating the Saccharomyces wee1 kinase (Swe1) and the morphogenesis checkpoint. Thus, we identify a mechanism involved in sensing the distribution of ER.
PMCID: PMC2064793  PMID: 17984322
7.  The Role of Subunit Assembly in Peripherin-2 Targeting to Rod Photoreceptor Disk Membranes and Retinitis Pigmentosa 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2003;14(8):3400-3413.
Peripherin-2 is a member of the tetraspanin family of membrane proteins that plays a critical role in photoreceptor outer segment disk morphogenesis. Mutations in peripherin-2 are responsible for various retinal degenerative diseases including autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (ADRP). To identify determinants required for peripherin-2 targeting to disk membranes and elucidate mechanisms underlying ADRP, we have generated transgenic Xenopus tadpoles expressing wild-type and ADRP-linked peripherin-2 mutants as green fluorescent fusion proteins in rod photoreceptors. Wild-type peripherin-2 and P216L and C150S mutants, which assemble as tetramers, targeted to disk membranes as visualized by confocal and electron microscopy. In contrast the C214S and L185P mutants, which form homodimers, but not tetramers, were retained in the rod inner segment. Only the P216L disease mutant induced photoreceptor degeneration. These results indicate that tetramerization is required for peripherin-2 targeting and incorporation into disk membranes. Tetramerization-defective mutants cause ADRP through a deficiency in wild-type peripherin-2, whereas tetramerization-competent P216L peripherin-2 causes ADRP through a dominant negative effect, possibly arising from the introduction of a new oligosaccharide chain that destabilizes disks. Our results further indicate that a checkpoint between the photoreceptor inner and outer segments allows only correctly assembled peripherin-2 tetramers to be incorporated into nascent disk membranes.
PMCID: PMC181576  PMID: 12925772

Results 1-7 (7)