Heat tolerance is well known to be key to fungal survival in many habitats, but our mechanistic understanding of how organisms adapt to heat stress is still incomplete. Using Metarhizium robertsii , an emerging model organism for assessing evolutionary processes, we report that pyruvate is in the vanguard of molecules that scavenge heat-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS). We show that, as well as inducing a rapid burst of ROS production, heat stress also downregulates genes for pyruvate consumption. The accumulating pyruvate is the fastest acting of several M. robertsii ROS scavengers, efficiently reducing protein carbonylation, stabilizing mitochondrial membrane potential, and promoting fungal growth. The acetate produced from pyruvate-ROS reactions itself causes acid stress, tolerance to which is regulated by Hog1 mitogen-activated protein kinase. Heat stress also induces pyruvate accumulation in several other fungi, suggesting that scavenging of heat-induced ROS by pyruvate is widespread. IMPORTANCE Heat is a dangerous challenge for most organisms, as it denatures proteins and induces the production of ROS that inactivate proteins, lipid membranes, and DNA. How organisms respond to this stress is not fully understood. Using the experimentally tractable insect pathogen Metarhizium robertsii as a model organism, we show for the first time that heat stress induces pyruvate production and that this functions as the first line of defense against heat-induced ROS. Heat stress also induces rapid pyruvate accumulation in other fungi, suggesting that pyruvate is a common but unappreciated defense against stress.
Zhang, X., St. Leger, R. J., & Fang, W. (2017). Pyruvate Accumulation Is the First Line of Cell Defense against Heat Stress in a Fungus. MBio, 8(5). https://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.01284-17