Background: One of the most crucial tasks for a cell to ensure its long term survival is preserving the integrity of its genetic heritage via maintenance of DNA structure and sequence. While the DNA damage response in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a model eukaryotic organism, has been extensively studied, much remains to be elucidated about how the organism senses and responds to different types and doses of DNA damage. We have measured the global transcriptional response of S. cerevisiae to multiple doses of two representative DNA damaging agents, methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) and gamma radiation.
Results: Hierarchical clustering of genes with a statistically significant change in transcription illustrated the differences in the cellular responses to MMS and gamma radiation. Overall, MMS produced a larger transcriptional response than gamma radiation, and many of the genes modulated in response to MMS are involved in protein and translational regulation. Several clusters of coregulated genes whose responses varied with DNA damaging agent dose were identified. Perhaps the most interesting cluster contained four genes exhibiting biphasic induction in response to MMS dose. All of the genes (DUN1, RNR2, RNR4, and HUG1) are involved in the Mec1p kinase pathway known to respond to MMS, presumably due to stalled DNA replication forks. The biphasic responses of these genes suggest that the pathway is induced at lower levels as MMS dose increases. The genes in this cluster with a threefold or greater transcriptional response to gamma radiation all showed an increased induction with increasing gamma radiation dosage.
Conclusion: Analyzing genome-wide transcriptional changes to multiple doses of external stresses enabled the identification of cellular responses that are modulated by magnitude of the stress, providing insights into how a cell deals with genotoxicity.