A synthetic human kinase can control cell cycle progression in budding yeast.
The DDK kinase complex, composed of Cdc7 and Dbf4, is required for S-phase progression. The two component proteins show different degrees of sequence conservation between human and yeast. Here, we determine that Saccharomyces cerevisiae bearing human CDC7 and DBF4 grows comparably to cells with yeast DDK under standard growth conditions. HsDrf1 (a second human Dbf4-like protein) does not support growth, suggesting that HsDbf4 is the true ortholog of ScDbf4. Both human subunits are required to complement yeast cdc7Δ or dbf4Δ due to the inability of human Cdc7 or Dbf4 to interact with the corresponding yeast protein. Flow cytometry indicates normal cell cycle progression for yeast containing human DDK. However, yeast containing human DDK is sensitive to long-term exposure to hydroxyurea and fails to sporulate, suggesting that human DDK substitutes for some, but not all, of yeast DDK's functions. We mapped the region of Cdc7 required for species-specific function of DDK to the C-terminus of Cdc7 by substituting the yeast C-terminal 55 amino acid residues in place of the equivalent human residues. The resulting hybrid protein supported growth of a cdc7Δ strain only in the presence of ScDBF4. The strain supported by the hybrid CDC7 was not sensitive to HU and formed tetrads. Together, our data indicate that DDK's targeting of its essential substrate is conserved between species, whereas the interactions within DDK are species specific.