Regulation of Schizosaccharomyces pombe Atf1 protein levels by Sty1-mediated phosphorylation and heterodimerization with Pcr1.J Biol Chem. 2007 Feb 23; 282(8):5160-70.JB
The Atf1 transcription factor plays a vital role in the ability of Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells to respond to various stress conditions. It regulates the expression of many genes in a stress-dependent manner, and its function is dependent upon the stress-activated MAPK, Sty1/Spc1. Moreover, Atf1 is directly phosphorylated by Sty1. Here we have investigated the role of such phosphorylation. Atf1 protein accumulates following stress, and this accumulation is lost in a strain defective in the Sty1 signaling pathway. In addition, accumulation of a mutant Atf1 protein that can no longer be phosphorylated is lost. Measurement of the half-life of Atf1 demonstrates that changes in Atf1 stability are responsible for this accumulation. Atf1 stability is also regulated by its heterodimeric partner, Pcr1. Similarly, Pcr1 levels are regulated by Atf1. Thus multiple pathways exist that ensure that Atf1 levels are appropriately regulated. Phosphorylation of Atf1 is important for cells to mount a robust response to H(2)O(2) stress, because the Atf1 phospho-mutant displays sensitivity to this stress, and induction of gene expression is lower than that observed in wild-type cells. Surprisingly, however, loss of Atf1 phosphorylation does not lead to the complete loss of stress-activated expression of Atf1 target genes. Accordingly, the Atf1 phospho-mutant does not display the same overall stress sensitivities as the atf1 deletion mutant. Taken together, these data suggest that Sty1 phosphorylation of Atf1 is not required for activation of Atf1 per se but rather for modulating its stability.