Background: Recent studies in comparative genomics demonstrate that interspecies comparison represents a powerful tool for identifying both conserved and specialized biologic processes across large evolutionary distances. All cells must adjust to environmental fluctuations in metal levels, because levels that are too low or too high can be detrimental. Here we explore the conservation of metal homoeostasis in two distantly related yeasts.
Results: We examined genome-wide gene expression responses to changing copper and iron levels in budding and fission yeast using DNA microarrays. The comparison reveals conservation of only a small core set of genes, defining the copper and iron regulons, with a larger number of additional genes being specific for each species. Novel regulatory targets were identified in Schizosaccharomyces pombe for Cuf1p (pex7 and SPAC3G6.05) and Fep1p (srx1, sib1, sib2, rds1, isu1, SPBC27B12.03c, SPAC1F8.02c, and SPBC947.05c). We also present evidence refuting a direct role of Cuf1p in the repression of genes involved in iron uptake. Remarkable differences were detected in responses of the two yeasts to excess copper, probably reflecting evolutionary adaptation to different environments.
Conclusion: The considerable evolutionary distance between budding and fission yeast resulted in substantial diversion in the regulation of copper and iron homeostasis. Despite these differences, the conserved regulation of a core set of genes involved in the uptake of these metals provides valuable clues to key features of metal metabolism.