Acetyl-CoA is a central metabolite in carbon and energy metabolism. Because of its amphiphilic nature and bulkiness, acetyl-CoA cannot readily traverse biological membranes. In fungi two systems for acetyl unit transport have been identified: a shuttle dependent on the carrier carnitine and a (peroxisomal) citrate synthase-dependent pathway. In the carnitine-dependent pathway carnitine acetyl-transferases (Cats) exchange the CoA group of acetyl-CoA for carnitine, thereby forming acetyl-carnitine, which can be transported between subcellular compartments. Citrate synthase catalyzes the condensation of oxaloacetate and acetyl-CoA to form citrate that can be transported over the membrane. Since essential metabolic pathways like fatty acid beta-oxidation, the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and the glyoxylate cycle are physically separated into different organelles, shuttling of acetyl units is essential for growth of fungal species on various carbon sources like fatty acids, ethanol, acetate or citrate. In this review we summarize the current knowledge on the different systems of acetyl transport that are operational during alternative carbon metabolism, with special focus on two fungal species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans.
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