The protein kinase C (PKC)-MAPK signaling cascade is activated and is essential for viability when cells are starved for the phospholipid precursor inositol. In this study, we report that inhibiting inositol-containing sphingolipid metabolism, either by inositol starvation or treatment with agents that block sphingolipid synthesis, triggers PKC signaling independent of sphingoid base accumulation. Under these same growth conditions, a fluorescent biosensor that detects the necessary PKC signaling intermediate, phosphatidylinositol (PI)-4-phosphate (PI4P), is enriched on the plasma membrane. The appearance of the PI4P biosensor on the plasma membrane correlates with PKC activation and requires the PI 4-kinase Stt4p. Like other mutations in the PKC-MAPK pathway, mutants defective in Stt4p and the PI4P 5-kinase Mss4p, which generates phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate, exhibit inositol auxotrophy, yet fully derepress INO1, encoding inositol-3-phosphate synthase. These observations suggest that inositol-containing sphingolipid metabolism controls PKC signaling by regulating access of the signaling lipids PI4P and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate to effector proteins on the plasma membrane.
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