It recently became apparent that the highly conserved Snf1p protein kinase plays roles in controlling different cellular processes in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in addition to its well-known function in glucose repression/derepression. We have previously reported that Snf1p together with Gis4p controls ion homeostasis by regulating expression of ENA1, which encodes the Ena1p Na(+) extrusion system. In this study we found that Snf1p is rapidly phosphorylated when cells are exposed to NaCl and this phosphorylation is required for the role of Snf1p in Na(+) tolerance. In contrast to activation by low glucose levels, the salt-induced phosphorylation of Snf1p promoted neither phosphorylation nor nuclear export of the Mig1p repressor. The mechanism that prevents Mig1p phosphorylation by active Snf1p under salt stress does not involve either hexokinase PII or the Gis4p regulator. Instead, Snf1p may mediate upregulation of ENA1 expression via the repressor Nrg1p. Activation of Snf1p in response to glucose depletion requires any of the three upstream protein kinases Sak1p, Tos3p and Elm1p, with Sak1p playing the most prominent role. The same upstream kinases were required for salt-induced Snf1p phosphorylation, and also under these conditions Sak1p played the most prominent role. Unexpectedly, however, it appears that Elm1p plays a dual role in acquisition of salt tolerance by activating Snf1p and in a presently unknown parallel pathway. Together, these results indicate that under salt stress Snf1p takes part in a different pathway from that during glucose depletion and this role is performed together as well as in parallel with its upstream kinase Elm1p. Snf1p appears to be part of a wider functional network than previously anticipated and the full complexity of this network remains to be elucidated.
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