Sphingoid intermediates accumulate in response to a variety of stresses, including heat, and trigger cellular responses. However, the mechanism by which stress affects sphingolipid biosynthesis has yet to be identified. Recent studies in yeast suggest that sphingolipid biosynthesis is regulated through phosphorylation of the Orm proteins, which in humans are potential risk factors for childhood asthma. Here we demonstrate that Orm phosphorylation status is highly responsive to sphingoid bases. We also demonstrate, by monitoring temporal changes in Orm phosphorylation and sphingoid base production in cells inhibited for yeast protein kinase 1 (Ypk1) activity, that Ypk1 transmits heat stress signals to the sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway via Orm phosphorylation. Our data indicate that heat-induced sphingolipid biosynthesis in turn triggers Orm protein dephosphorylation, making the induction transient. We identified Cdc55-protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) as a key phosphatase that counteracts Ypk1 activity in Orm-mediated sphingolipid biosynthesis regulation. In total, our study reveals a mechanism through which the conserved Pkh-Ypk kinase cascade and Cdc55-PP2A facilitate rapid, transient sphingolipid production in response to heat stress through Orm protein phosphoregulation. We propose that this mechanism serves as the basis for how Orm phosphoregulation controls sphingolipid biosynthesis in response to stress in a kinetically coupled manner.
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