Studies of Functional Interactions within Yeast Mediator and a Proposed Novel Mechanism for Regulation of Gene Expression
Abstract: The yeast Mediator complex is required for transcriptional regulation both in vivo and in vitro and the identification of similar complexes from metazoans indicates that its function is conserved through evolution. Mediator subunit composition and structure is well characterized both by biochemical, genetic and biophysical methods. In contrast, little is known about the mechanisms by which Mediator operates and how the complex is regulated. The aim of my thesis was to elucidate how Mediator functions at the molecular level and to investigate functional interactions within Mediator. It is possible to recruit RNA polymerase II to a target promoter and thus to activate transcription by fusing Mediator subunits to a DNA binding domain. In order to investigate functional interactions within Mediator, we made such fusion proteins where different Mediator subunits were fused to the DNA binding domain of lexA. The expression of a reporter gene containing binding sites for lexA was subsequently measured in both a wild type strain and in strains where genes encoding specific Mediator subunits had been disrupted. We found that lexA-Med2 and lexA-Gal11 are strong activators that function independently of all Mediator subunits tested. On the other hand, lexA-Srb10 is a weak activator that depends on Srb8 and Srb11 and lexA-Med1 and lexA-Srb7 are both cryptic activators that become active in the absence of Srb8, Srb10, Srb11, or Sin4. Both lexA-Med1 and lexA-Srb7 proteins showed a stable association with the Mediator subunits Med4 and Med8 in wild type cells and in all deletion strains tested, indicating that they were functionally incorporated into the Mediator complex. We also showed that both Med4 and Med8 exist in two forms that differed in electrophoretic mobility and that these forms differed in their ability to associate with Mediator immuno-purified from the LEXA-SRB7 and LEXA-MED1 strains. Dephosphorylation assays of purified Mediator indicated that the two mobility forms of Med4 corresponded to the phosphorylated and unphosphorylated forms of the Med4 protein respectively. Some of the data presented in this study as well as previous genetic and biochemical data obtained in our lab suggested a functional link between the Med1, Med2, Srb10 and Srb11 proteins. We extended these findings by showing that the Srb10 kinase phosphorylates the Med2 protein at residue serine 208, both in vitro and in vivo. We also showed that a point mutation of the single phosphorylation site to an alanine or to an aspartic acid residue altered the gene expression of a specific set of genes. Taken together, these data indicate that posttranslational modification of Mediator subunits is a so far uncharacterized mechanism for regulation of gene expression. In order to study the function of the Srb7 subunit of Mediator, we isolated a temperature sensitive strain where the amino acids 2 to 8 of srb7 were deleted. The Mediator subunits Nut2 and Med7 were isolated as high copy suppressor of srb7-?(2-8) and we were also able to show that Srb7 interacted with Nut2 and Med7 both in a 2-hybrid system and in co-immuno precipitation experiments using recombinantly expressed proteins. Interestingly, a deletion of amino acids 2 to 8 of Srb7 abolishes its interaction with both Med7 and Nut2 in vitro. Med4 also interacted with Srb7 in the 2-hybrid system and surprisingly, the first eight amino acids of Srb7 were shown to be sufficient for this interaction.
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