Metal ions are the least sophisticated chemical species that interact or bind to biomolecules. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae represents a versatile model organisms used in both basic and applicative research, and one of the main contributors to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the transport, accumulation, and homeostasis of heavy metals. With a negatively charged wall, the yeast cells are very good biosorbents for heavy metals. In addition to biosorption, the metabolically active cells take up heavy metals via the normal membrane transport systems. Once in the cell, the toxicity of the heavy metals is controlled by various mechanisms, including sequestration by metal-binding proteins, such as the metallothioneins. Metallothioneins are cysteine-rich proteins involved in the buffering of excess heavy metals, both essential (Cu and Zn) and nonessential (Cd, Ag, and Hg). S. cerevisiae has two innate metallothioneins, Cup1 and Crs5, intensively investigated. Additionally, S. cerevisiae served as a host for the heterologous expression of a variety of metallothioneins from different species. This review focuses on the technological implications of expressing metallothioneins in yeast and on the possibility to use these transgenic cells in heavy metal-related biotechnologies: bioremediation, recovery of rare metals, or obtaining clonable tags for protein imaging.
Part of the book: Old Yeasts
Despite constant efforts to maintain a clean environment, heavy metal pollution continues to raise challenges to the industrialized world. Exposure to heavy metals is detrimental to living organisms, and it is of utmost importance that cells find rapid and efficient ways to respond to and eventually adapt to surplus metals for survival under severe stress. This chapter focuses on the attempts done so far to elucidate the calcium-mediated response to heavy metal stress using the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The possibilities to record the transient elevations of calcium within yeast cells concomitantly with the heavy metal exposure are presented, and the limitations imposed by interference between calcium and heavy metals are discussed.
Part of the book: Calcium and Signal Transduction