The Mediator is composed of multiple subunits conserved from yeast to humans and plays a central role in transcription. The tail components are not required for basal transcription but are required for responses to different stresses. While some stresses are familiar, such as heat, desiccation, and starvation, others are exotic, yet yeast can elicit a successful stress response. 4-Methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) is a hydrotrope that induces growth arrest in yeast. We found that a naturally occurring variation in the Med15 allele, a component of the Mediator tail, altered the stress response to many chemicals in addition to MCHM. Med15 contains two polyglutamine repeats (polyQ) of variable lengths that change the gene expression of diverse pathways. The Med15 protein existed in multiple isoforms and its stability was dependent on Ydj1, a protein chaperone. The protein level of Med15 with longer polyQ tracts was lower and turned over faster than the allele with shorter polyQ repeats. MCHM sensitivity via variation of Med15 was regulated by Snf1 in a Myc-tag-dependent manner. Tagging Med15 with Myc altered its function in response to stress. Genetic variation in transcriptional regulators magnified genetic differences in response to environmental changes. These polymorphic control genes were master variators.
Keywords: MCHM; Med15; Mediator; Myc tag; Snf1; hydrotrope; inorganic phosphate; intrinsically disordered regions; master variator; polyQ; protein chaperone; stress; transcription factors; yeast.