To investigate Saccharomyces cerevisiae physiology during growth on the conditionally toxic triose dihydroxyacetone (DHA), protein expression was studied in strains overexpressing either of the two dihydroxyacetone kinase isogenes, DAK1 or DAK2, that grow well utilizing DHA as a carbon and energy source. DHA metabolism was found mostly similar to ethanol utilization, involving a strong component of glucose derepression, but also involved DHA-specific regulatory changes. A specific and strong (10- to 30-fold induction of formaldehyde dehydrogenase, Fdhlp, indicated activation of the formaldehyde dissimilation pathway in DHA medium. The importance of this pathway was further supported by impaired adaptation to DHA growth and DHA survival in a glutathione-dependent formaldehyde dehydrogenase (SFA1) deletion mutant. Glutathione synthase (GSH1) deletion led to decreased DHA survival in agreement with the glutathione cofactor requirement for the SFA1-encoded activity. DHA toxicity did, however, not solely appear related to formaldehyde accumulation, because SFA1 overexpression only enhanced formaldehyde but not DHA tolerance. In further agreement with a low DHA-to-formaldehyde flux, GSH supplements in the low microM range also fully suppressed the DHA sensitivity of a gsh1Delta strain. Under growth reduction on high (100 mM) DHA medium we report increased levels of advanced glycation end-product (AGE) formation on total protein. Under these high-DHA conditions expression of several stress-related proteins, e.g. a heat-shock protein (Hsp104p) and the oxidative stress indicator, alkyl hydroperoxide reductase (Ahp1p) was also found induced. However, hallmark determinants of oxidative stress tolerance (e.g. YAP1, SKN7, HYR1/GPX3 and SOD2) were redundant for DHA tolerance, thus indicating mechanisms of DHA toxicity largely independent of central oxidative stress defence mechanisms. We conclude that mechanisms for DHA growth and detoxification appear complex and that the evolutionary strive to minimize detrimental effects of this intracellular metabolite links to both formaldehyde and glutathione metabolism.
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