In order to determine the regulation mechanisms of ergosterol biosynthesis in yeast, we developed growth conditions leading to high or limiting ergosterol levels in wild type and sterol-auxotrophic mutant strains. An excess of sterol is obtained in anaerobic sterol-supplemented cultures of mutant and wild type strains. A low sterol level is obtained in aerobic growth conditions in mutant strains cultured with optimal sterol supplementation and in wild type strain deprived of pantothenic acid, as well as in anaerobic cultures without sterol supplementation. Measurements of the specific activities of acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase, HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA) synthase and HMG-CoA reductase (the first three enzymes of the pathway), show that in cells deprived of ergosterol, acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase and HMG-CoA synthase are generally increased. In an excess of ergosterol, in anaerobiosis, the same enzymes are strongly decreased. A 5-10-fold decrease is observed for acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase and HMG-CoA synthase. In contrast, HMG-CoA reductase is only slightly affected by these conditions. These results show that ergosterol could regulate its own synthesis, at least partially, by repression of the first two enzymes of the pathway. Our results also show that exogenous sterols, even if strongly incorporated by auxotrophic mutant cells, cannot suppress enzyme activities in aerobic growth conditions. Measurement of specific enzyme activities in mutant cells also revealed that farnesyl pyrophosphate thwarts the enhancement of the activities of the two first enzymes.

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