António Martins, MBW, Stockholm University
Per Ljungdahl, MBW, Stockholm University
Bruno André, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium (opponent)
Nico Dantuma, Dept of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institute
Hans Ronne, Dept of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology, 
Anna-Lena Spetz, MBW, Stockholm University
Ann-Kristin Östlund Farrants, MBW, Stockholm University

The cell biology and catalytic properties of the nutrient-induced signaling endoprotease Ssy5

Cells continuously sense and respond to changes in the presence, quality and quantity of external and internal nutrients. Specific signaling proteases have been identified based on their roles in processing or destruction of distinct sets of downstream effector proteins in response to environmental cues. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Ssy5 signaling
endoprotease has a key role in regulating central metabolism, cellular aging, and morphological transitions important for growth and survival. Ssy5 is a core component of the Ssy1–Ptr3-Ssy5 (SPS) sensor, which enables yeast cells to respond to extracellular amino acids and induce their uptake. Ssy5 cleaves transcription factors Stp1 and Stp2, permitting their translocation to the nucleus where they enhance the expression of amino acid permease genes. This thesis focuses on Ssy5, its biogenesis and catalytic properties (paper I), the spatial determinants underlying Ssy5 function in SPS-sensor context (paper II) and substrate cleavage (paper III).

Ssy5 is comprised of pro- and catalytic-(Cat)-domains. The Cat-domain possesses characteristic hallmarks of a serine
protease; however, serine protease-specific inhibitors have limited effect, confounding its classification. In paper I we
unambiguously show that Ssy5 is a serine protease, define the precise sites of cleavage in Stp1 and Stp2, and describe
the sequence specific requirements of their cleavage. The uniquely large prodomain (381 amino acids) has two essential functions. Initially, it is required in cis for the maturation of the Cat-domain, helping to overcome a folding barrier that is reflected in the high stability of the Cat-domain. Subsequent to attaining enzymatic competence, Ssy5 undergoes an autolytic cleavage event. The domains remain associated and the prodomain functions to fetter the proteolytic activity of the Cat-domain.

The plasma membrane (PM) localization of Ssy1 has recently been questioned in a report that postulated that Ssy1
is a component of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and contributes to the formation of ER-PM junctions. In paper II,
using mutational and subcellular fractionation experiments we critically examined this notion that is inconsistent with the current understanding of Ssy5 activation, i.e., the unfettering of the Cat-domain occurs in strict association with Ssy1 at the PM. The data show that Ssy1 is indeed a PM protein, and importantly, Ssy5-activation occurs independent of ERPM junctions. A di-acidic ER exit motif was identified that is critical for proper PM localization and function of Ssy1. In paper III, we report that the Cat-domain is post-translationally modified in a manner dependent on Ptr3 and the PM casein kinase I (Yck1/2), consistent with Ssy5 activation occurring at the PM. Strikingly, the activated Cat-domain is capable of properly cleaving Stp1 fused to an ER membrane protein. The amino acid-induced cleavage of this artificial membranebound substrate occurs in a Δtether strain (ist2Δ scs2Δ scs22Δ tcb1Δ tcb2Δ tcb3Δ) lacking ER-PM junctions. These findings indicate that the activated Cat-domain can bind and functionally interact with substrates distant from the PM. Finally, we show that the Cat-domain is degraded faster in amino acid-induced cells. These findings provide novel insights into the SPS-sensing pathway and demonstrate for the first time that the resetting of the SPS-sensing system correlates with Catdomain degradation.

Keywords: Nutrient sensing, signal transduction, regulated proteolysis, endoprotease, serine protease, substrate
specificity, subcellular fractionation, Saccharomyces cerevisiae