The role of phosphatidylcholine turnover during hypersaline stress is investigated in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In the wild-type strain, 2180-1A hypersaline stress induced the rapid turnover of phosphatidylcholine, a major membrane lipid. Yeast cells were grown in the presence of [14C]-choline to label phosphatidylcholine. Upon shifting the cells to medium with 0.8 M NaCl, phosphatidylcholine levels were diminished by c. 30% within 20 min to yield glycerophosphocholine, a methylamine osmoprotectant that has been previously identified in renal cells. High-performance liquid chromatography studies showed that osmotically mediated glycerophosphocholine production was enhanced if 10 mM choline was added as a supplement to synthetic dextrose medium with 1.6 M NaCl, but glycine betaine was not detected. Enhanced glycerophosphocholine production also correlated with improved growth in media containing 1.6 M NaCl and choline. Enhanced growth is specific to methylamines: salt-stressed cells supplemented with 10 mM choline or glycine betaine showed enhanced growth relative to unsupplemented control cultures, but other additives had no effect on growth or adversely affected it. Nutritional effects are ruled out because yeast cannot use choline or glycine betaine as carbon or nitrogen sources in normal or high-salt medium. Finally, enhanced growth in hypersaline media with choline or glycine betaine is dependent on the choline permease Hnm1. These results in yeast highlight a similarity with mammalian renal cells, namely that phosphatidylcholine turnover contributes to osmotic adaptation via synthesis of the osmoprotectant glycerophosphocholine.
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