Chloride homeostasis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been characterized with the goal of identifying new Cl- transport and regulatory pathways. Steady-state cellular Cl- contents ( approximately 0.2 mEq/liter cell water) differ by less than threefold in yeast grown in media containing 0.003-5 mM Cl-. Therefore, yeast have a potent mechanism for maintaining constant cellular Cl- over a wide range of extracellular Cl-. The cell water:medium [Cl-] ratio is >20 in media containing 0.01 mM Cl- and results in part from sequestration of Cl- in organelles, as shown by the effect of deleting genes involved in vacuolar acidification. Organellar sequestration cannot account entirely for the Cl- accumulation, however, because the cell water:medium [Cl-] ratio in low Cl- medium is approximately 10 at extracellular pH 4.0 even in vma1 yeast, which lack the vacuolar H(+)-ATPase. Cellular Cl- accumulation is ATP dependent in both wild type and vma1 strains. The initial (36)Cl- influx is a saturable function of extracellular [(36)Cl-] with K(1/2) of 0.02 mM at pH 4.0 and >0.2 mM at pH 7, indicating the presence of a high affinity Cl- transporter in the plasma membrane. The transporter can exchange (36)Cl- for either Cl- or Br- far more rapidly than SO4=, phosphate, formate, HCO3-, or NO3-. High affinity Cl- influx is not affected by deletion of any of several genes for possible Cl- transporters. The high affinity Cl- transporter is activated over a period of approximately 45 min after shifting cells from high-Cl- to low-Cl- media. Deletion of ORF YHL008c (formate-nitrite transporter family) strongly reduces the rate of activation of the flux. Therefore, Yhl008cp may be part of a Cl(-)-sensing mechanism that activates the high affinity transporter in a low Cl- medium. This is the first example of a biological system that can regulate cellular Cl- at concentrations far below 1 mM.
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