Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry 283:46 (November 14, 2008), pp. 31460–31468; doi 10.1074/jbc.M806054200 Copyright © 2008 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc. Used by permission.


Cadmium is a highly toxic environmental contaminant implicated in various diseases. Our previous data demonstrated that Pca1, a P1B-type ATPase, plays a critical role in cadmium resistance in yeast S. cerevisiae by extruding intracellular cadmium. This illustrates the first cadmium-specific efflux pump in eukaryotes. In response to cadmium, yeast cells rapidly enhance expression of Pca1 by a post-transcriptional mechanism. To gain mechanistic insights into the cadmium-dependent control of Pca1 expression, we have characterized the pathway for Pca1 turnover and the mechanism of cadmium sensing that leads to up-regulation of Pca1. Pca1 is a short-lived protein (t½ < 5 min) and is subject to ubiquitination when cells are growing in media lacking cadmium. Distinct from many plasma membrane transporters targeted to the vacuole for degradation via endocytosis, cells defective in this pathway did not stabilize Pca1. Rather, Pca1 turnover was dependent on the proteasome. These data suggest that, in the absence of cadmium, Pca1 is targeted for degradation before reaching the plasma membrane. Mapping of the N terminus of Pca1 identified a metal-responding degradation signal encompassing amino acids 250–350. Fusion of this domain to a stable protein demonstrated that it functions autonomously in a metal-responsive manner. Cadmium sensing by cysteine residues within this domain circumvents ubiquitination and degradation of Pca1. These data reveal a new mechanism for substrate-mediated control of P1B-type ATPase expression. Cells have likely evolved this mode of regulation for a rapid and specific cellular response to cadmium.