Proteomic analysis of an environmental isolate of Rhodotorula mucilaginosa after arsenic and cadmium challenge: Identification of a protein expression signature for heavy metal exposure

Sidra Ilyas, Abdul Rehman, Ana Varela Coelho, David Sheehan

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A metal-resistant Rhodotorula mucilaginosa strain was isolated from an industrial wastewater. Effects on reduced/oxidized glutathione (GSSG/GSH), antioxidant enzymes and proteome were assessed on metal challenge (100 mg/L). Increased GSH (mM/g) was found with CdCl2 (18.43 ± 3.34), NaAsO2 (14.76 ± 2.14), CuSO4 (14.73 ± 2.49), and Pb(NO3)2 (15.74 ± 5.3) versus control (7.67 ± 0.95). GSH:GSSG ratio decreased with CdCl2, NaAsO2, and Pb(NO3)2 but not with CuSO4 and cysteine-containing protein levels increased with CdCl2 and NaAsO2. NaAsO2 exposure enhanced glutathione transferase activity but this decreased with CdCl2. Both metals significantly increased glutathione reductase and catalase activities. Metabolism-dependent uptake of Cd and As (12-day exposure) of approximately 65 mg/g was observed in live cells with greater cell surface interaction for As compared to Cd. A particular role for arsenic oxidase in As resistance was identified. One dimensional electrophoresis revealed higher oxidation of protein thiols in response to NaAsO2 than to CdCl2. Two dimensional electrophoresis showed altered abundance of some proteins on metal treatment. Selected spots were excised for mass spectrometry and seven proteins identified. Under oxidative stress conditions, xylose reductase, putative chitin deacetylase, 20S proteasome subunit, eukaryotic translation elongation factor 2, valine-tRNA ligase and a metabolic enzyme F0F1 ATP synthase alpha subunit were all expressed as well as a unique hypothetical protein. These may comprise a protein expression signature for metal-induced oxidation in this yeast. Significance: Fungi are of widespread importance in agriculture, biodegradation and often show extensive tolerance to heavy metals. This makes them of interest from the perspective of bioremediation. In this study an environmental isolate of R. mucilaginosa showing extensive tolerance of a panel of heavy metals, in particular cadmium and arsenic, was studied. Several biochemical parameters such as activity of antioxidant enzymes, status of reduced and oxidized glutathione and thiols associated with proteins were all found to be affected by metal exposure. A detailed analysis with arsenic and cadmium pointed to a particular role for arsenic oxidase in arsenic bioaccumulation and tolerance. This is the first time this has been reported in R. mucilaginosa, and suggests that this isolate may have potential in biosorption of these metals in the environment. Proteomic analysis revealed that seven proteins with a variety of roles - ATP synthesis, protein degradation/synthesis, and metabolism of xylose and chitin - were differentially affected by metal exposure in a manner consistent with oxidative stress. These may therefore represent a protein expression signature for exposure to cadmium and arsenic.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Proteomics
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Oxidative stress
  • Proteome
  • Rhodotorula


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