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Secretion of a foreign protein from budding yeasts is enhanced by cotranslational translocation and by suppression of vacuolar targeting

Ivy Fitzgerald1 and Benjamin S Glick2*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 929 East 57th Street, Chicago 60637, Illinois, USA

2 Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago, 920 East 58th Street, Chicago 60637, Illinois, USA

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Microbial Cell Factories 2014, 13:125  doi:10.1186/s12934-014-0125-0

Published: 28 August 2014



Budding yeasts are often used to secrete foreign proteins, but the efficiency is variable. To identify roadblocks in the yeast secretory pathway, we used a monomeric superfolder GFP (msGFP) as a visual tracer in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Pichia pastoris.


One roadblock for msGFP secretion is translocation into the ER. Foreign proteins are typically fused to the bipartite ?-factor secretion signal, which consists of the signal sequence followed by the pro region. The ?-factor signal sequence directs posttranslational translocation. For msGFP, posttranslational translocation is inefficient with the ?-factor signal sequence alone but is stimulated by the pro region. This requirement for the pro region can be bypassed by using the Ost1 signal sequence, which has been shown to direct cotranslational translocation. A hybrid secretion signal consisting of the Ost1 signal sequence followed by the ?-factor pro region drives efficient translocation followed by rapid ER export. A second roadblock for msGFP secretion in S. cerevisiae occurs during exit from the Golgi, when some of the msGFP molecules are diverted to the vacuole. Deletion of the sorting receptor Vps10 prevents vacuolar targeting of msGFP at the expense of missorting vacuolar hydrolases such as carboxypeptidase Y (CPY) to the culture medium. However, a truncation of Vps10 blocks vacuolar targeting of msGFP while permitting CPY to be sorted normally.


With budding yeasts, if the secretion or processing of a foreign protein is poor, we recommend two options. First, use the Ost1 signal sequence to achieve efficient entry into the secretory pathway while avoiding the processing issues associated with the ?-factor pro region. Second, truncate Vps10 to suppress diversion to the vacuole. These insights obtained with msGFP highlight the value of applying cell biological methods to study yeast secretion.

Yeasts; Secretion; Heterologous protein production; Signal sequence; Alpha-factor; Translocation; Sorting; Vacuole; Ost1; Vps10