Unlike pathogenic fungi, the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is not efficient at using heme as a nutritional source of iron. Here we report that for this yeast, heme uptake is induced under conditions of heme starvation. Heme synthesis requires oxygen, and yeast grown anaerobically exhibited an increased uptake of hemin. Similarly, a strain lacking aminolevulinate synthase exhibited a sixfold increase in hemin uptake when grown without 2-aminolevulinic acid. We used microarray analysis of cells grown under reduced oxygen tension or reduced intracellular heme conditions to identify candidate genes involved in heme uptake. Surprisingly, overexpression of PUG1 (protoporphyrin uptake gene 1) resulted in reduced utilization of exogenous heme by a heme-deficient strain and, conversely, increased the utilization of protoporphyrin IX. Pug1p was localized to the plasma membrane by indirect immunofluorescence and subcellular fractionation. Strains overexpressing PUG1 exhibited decreased accumulation of [(55)Fe]hemin but increased accumulation of protoporphyrin IX compared to the wild-type strain. To measure the effect of PUG1 overexpression on intracellular heme pools, we used a CYC1-lacZ reporter, which is activated in the presence of heme, and we monitored the activity of a heme-containing metalloreductase, Fre1p, expressed from a constitutive promoter. The data from these experiments were consistent with a role for Pug1p in inducible protoporphyrin IX influx and heme efflux.
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