To elucidate the mechanism of toxicity of methylmercury (MeHg), we searched for factors that determine the sensitivity of yeast cells to MeHg and found that overexpression of Cdc34 or Rad23, both proteins related to the ubiquitin-proteasome (UP) system, induces resistance to MeHg toxicity. The acquisition of resistance to MeHg in Cdc34-overexpressing yeast cells requires the ubiquitin-conjugating activity of Cdc34 and the proteolytic activity of proteasomes. Therefore, it seems likely that certain as-yet-unidentified proteins that increase MeHg toxicity might exist in cells and that the toxicity of MeHg might be reduced by the enhanced degradation of such proteins through the UP system when Cdc34 is overexpressed. Unlike Cdc34, Rad23 suppresses the degradation of ubiquitinated proteins by proteasomes. This activity of Rad23 might be involved in the acquisition of resistance to MeHg toxicity when Rad23 is overexpressed. Overexpression of Rad23 might induce resistance to MeHg by suppressing the degradation of proteins that reduce the MeHg toxicity. Moreover, when we overexpressed Cdc34 in normal and Rad23-defective yeasts, resistance to MeHg was enhanced to almost the same extent in both lines of yeast cells. Thus it is possible that the binding of Rad23 to ubiquitinated proteins might be regulated by a mechanism that involves the recognition of substrate proteins and that the functions of Rad23 might not affect the protein-degradation system in which Cdc34 is involved. Many proteins that reduce or enhance MeHg toxicity and are ubiquitinated might exist in cells. The UP system and related proteins might determine the extent of MeHg toxicity by regulating the cellular concentrations of these various proteins.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmaceutical Science