Mild non-ionic detergents are used for solubilization of hydrophobic substrates in yeast growth media at concentrations 0.1-1%. Our data show that low concentrations of Nonidet P-40 may significantly affect lipid biogenesis in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The uptake and esterification of external [4-14C]-cholesterol is strongly reduced in hem1 mutants treated with low concentrations of Nonidet P-40. Significant inhibitory effect of NP-40 on sterol uptake and esterification was evident both in non-growing and growing cells supplemented with external cholesterol. Increased levels of sterol precursors (squalene, lanosterol) in hem1 cells grown in complex medium with cholesterol indicated general interference of NP-40 with sterol biosynthesis. NP-40 in the growth medium affected also cell viability estimated as the colony forming ability. More attention should be therefore paid to possible effects of mild detergents at low concentrations generally considered to be harmless, especially in cells with disturbed lipid biogenesis.
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