Saccharomyces Cerevisiae as a biotechnological tool for ageing research
: studies on translation and metabolism

  • Stephanie Cartwright

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an important model organism for the study of cell biology. The similarity between yeast and human genes and the conservation of fundamental pathways means it can be used to investigate characteristics of healthy and diseased cells throughout the lifespan. Yeast is an equally important biotechnological tool that has long been the organism of choice for the production of alcoholic beverages, bread and a large variety of industrial products. For example, yeast is used to manufacture biofuels, lubricants, detergents, industrial enzymes, food additives and pharmaceuticals such as anti-parasitics, anti-cancer compounds, hormones (including insulin), vaccines and nutraceuticals. Its function as a cell factory is possible because of the speed with which it can be grown to high cell yields, the knowledge that it is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and the ease with which metabolism and cellular pathways, such as translation can be manipulated. In this thesis, these two pathways are explored in the context of their biotechnological application to ageing research: (i) understanding translational processes during the high-yielding production of membrane protein drug targets and (ii) the manipulation of yeast metabolism to study the molecule, L-carnosine, which has been proposed to have anti-ageing properties. In the first of these themes, the yeast strains, spt3?, srb5?, gcn5? and yTHCBMS1, were examined since they have been previously demonstrated to dramatically increase the yields of a target membrane protein (the aquaporin, Fps1) compared to wild-type cells. The mechanisms underlying this discovery were therefore investigated. All high yielding strains were shown to have an altered translational state (mostly characterised by an initiation block) and constitutive phosphorylation of the translational initiation factor, eIF2a. The relevance of the initiation block was further supported by the finding that other strains, with known initiation blocks, are also high yielding for Fps1. A correlation in all strains between increased Fps1 yields and increased production of the transcriptional activator protein, Gcn4, suggested that yields are subject to translational control. Analysis of the 5´ untranslated region (UTR) of FPS1 revealed two upstream open reading frames (uORFs). Mutagenesis data suggest that high yielding strains may circumvent these control elements through either a leaky scanning or a re-initiation mechanism. In the second theme, the dipeptide L-carnosine (ß-alanyl-L-histidine) was investigated: it has previously been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells but delay senescence in cultured human fibroblasts and extend the lifespan of male fruit flies. To understand these apparently contradictory properties, the effects of L-carnosine on yeast were studied. S. cerevisiae can respire aerobically when grown on a non-fermentable carbon source as a substrate but has a respiro-fermentative metabolism when grown on a fermentable carbon source; these metabolisms mimic normal cell and cancerous cell metabolisms, respectively. When yeast were grown on fermentable carbon sources, in the presence of L-carnosine, a reduction in cell growth and viability was observed, which was not apparent for cells grown on a non-fermentable carbon source. The metabolism-dependent mechanism was confirmed in the respiratory yeast species Pichia pastoris. Further analysis of S. cerevisiae yeast strains with deletions in their nutrient-sensing pathway, which result in an increase in respiratory metabolism, confirmed the metabolism-dependent effects of L-carnosine.
Date of Award26 Sept 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRoslyn Bill (Supervisor)


  • Fps1
  • L-carnosine
  • translation initiation
  • metabolism

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