The ASP3 locus in Saccharomyces cerevisiae originated by horizontal gene transfer from Wickerhamomyces

FEMS Yeast Res. 2012 Nov;12(7):859-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1567-1364.2012.00828.x. Epub 2012 Jul 31.


The asparagine degradation pathway in the S288c laboratory strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is comprised of genes located at two separate loci. ASP1 is located on chromosome IV and encodes for cytosolic l-asparaginase I, whereas ASP3 contains a gene cluster located on chromosome XII comprised of four identical genes, ASP3-1, ASP3-2, ASP3-3, and ASP3-4, which encode for cell wall-associated l-asparaginase II. Interestingly, the ASP3 locus appears to be only present, in variable copy number, in S. cerevisiae strains isolated from laboratory or industrial environments and is completely absent from the genomes of 128 diverse fungal species. Investigation of the evolutionary history of ASP3 across these 128 genomes as well as across the genomes of 43 S. cerevisiae strains shows that ASP3 likely arose in a S. cerevisiae strain via horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from, or a close relative of, the wine yeast Wickerhamomyces anomalus, which co-occurs with S. cerevisiae in several biotechnological processes. Thus, because the ASP3 present in the S288c laboratory strain of S. cerevisiae is induced in response to nitrogen starvation, its acquisition may have aided yeast adaptation to artificial environments. Our finding that the ASP3 locus in S. cerevisiae originated via HGT further highlights the importance of gene sharing between yeasts in the evolution of their remarkable metabolic diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Asparaginase / genetics*
  • Asparaginase / metabolism
  • Asparagine / metabolism
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Saccharomycetales / enzymology*
  • Saccharomycetales / genetics*
  • Saccharomycetales / metabolism


  • Asparagine
  • Asparaginase