The protein kinase C (PKC) pathway is involved in the maintenance of cell shape and cell integrity in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Here, we show that this pathway mediates tolerance to low pH and that the Bck1 and Slt2 proteins belonging to the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade are essential for cell survival at low pH. The PKC pathway is activated during acidification of the extracellular environment, and this activation depends mainly on the Mid2p cell wall sensor. Rgd1p, which encodes a Rho GTPase-activating protein for the small G proteins Rho3p and Rho4p, also plays a role in low-pH response. The rgd1Delta strain is sensitive to low pH, and Rgd1p activates the PKC pathway in an acidic environment. Inactivation of both genes in the double mutant rgd1Delta mid2Delta strain renders yeast cells unable to survive at low pH as in bck1Delta and slt2Delta strains. Our data provide evidence for the existence of two distinct ways, one involving Mid2p and the other involving Rgd1p, with both converging to the cell integrity pathway to mediate low-pH tolerance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Nevertheless, even if Rgd1p acts on the PKC pathway, it seems that its mediating action on low-pH tolerance is not limited to this pathway. As the Mid2p amount plays a role in rgd1Delta sensitivity to low pH, Mid2p seems to act more like a molecular rheostat, controlling the level of PKC pathway activity and thus allowing phenotypical expression of RGD1 inactivation.
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