Selenium (Se) is a trace element that is essential for human health as it takes part in many cellular processes. The cellular response to this compound elicits very diverse processes including DNA damage response and repair. Because an inorganic form of Se, sodium selenite (SeL), has often been a part of numerous studies and because this form of Se is used as a dietary supplement by the public, here, we elucidated mechanisms of SeL-induced toxicity in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae using a combination of systematic genetic and transcriptome analysis. First, we screened the yeast haploid deletion mutant library for growth in the presence of this Se compound. We identified 39 highly SeL sensitive mutants. The corresponding deleted genes encoded mostly proteins involved in DNA damage response and repair, vacuole function, glutathione (GSH) metabolism, transcription, and chromatin metabolism. DNA damage response and repair mutants were examined in more detail: a synergistic interaction between postreplication (PRR) and homologous recombination (HRR) repair pathways was revealed. In addition, the effect of combined defects in HRR and GSH metabolism was analyzed, and again, the synergistic interaction was found. Second, microarray analysis was used to reveal expression profile changes after SeL exposure. The gene process categories "amino acid metabolism" and "generation of precursor metabolites and energy" comprised the greatest number of induced and repressed genes, respectively. We propose that SeL-induced toxicity markedly results from DNA injury, thereby highlighting the importance of DNA damage response and repair pathways in protecting cells against toxic effects of this Se compound. In addition, we suggest that SeL toxicity also originates from damage to cellular proteins, including those acting in DNA damage response and repair.
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