Journal article, 2007
Osmoregulation is the active control of the cellular water balance and encompasses homeostatic mechanisms crucial for life. The osmoregulatory system in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is particularly well understood. Key to yeast osmoregulation is the production and accumulation of the compatible solute glycerol, which is partly controlled by the high osmolarity glycerol (HOG) signaling system. Genetic analyses combined with studies on protein-protein interactions have revealed the wiring scheme of the HOG signaling network, a branched mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase (MAPK) pathway that eventually converges on the MAPK Hog1. Hog1 is activated following cell shrinking and controls posttranscriptional processes in the cytosol as well as gene expression in the nucleus. HOG pathway activity can easily and rapidly be controlled experimentally by extracellular stimuli, and signaling and adaptation can be separated by a system of forced adaptation. This makes yeast osmoregulation suitable for studies on system properties of signaling and cellular adaptation via mathematical modeling. Computational simulations and parallel quantitative time course experimentation on different levels of the regulatory system have provided a stepping stone toward a holistic understanding, revealing how the HOG pathway can combine rigorous feedback control with maintenance of signaling competence. The abundant tools make yeast a suitable model for an integrated analysis of cellular osmoregulation. Maintenance of the cellular water balance is fundamental for life. All cells, even those in multicellular organisms with an organism-wide osmoregulation, have the ability to actively control their water balance. Osmoregulation encompasses homeostatic processes that maintain an appropriate intracellular environment for biochemical processes as well as turgor of cells and organism. In the laboratory, the osmoregulatory system is studied most conveniently as a response to osmotic shock, causing rapid and dramatic changes in the extracellular water activity. Those rapid changes mediate either water efflux (hyperosmotic shock), and hence cell shrinkage, or influx (hypoosmotic shock), causing cell swelling. The yeast S. cerevisiae, as a free-living organism experiencing both slow and rapid changes in extracellular water activity, has proven a suitable and genetically tractable experimental system in studying the underlying signaling pathways and regulatory processes governing osmoregulation. Although far from complete, the present picture of yeast osmoregulation is both extensive and detailed (de Nadal et al., 2002; Hohmann, 2002; Klipp et al., 2005). Simulations using mathematical models combined with time course measurements of different molecular processes in signaling and adaptation have allowed elucidation of the first system properties on the yeast osmoregulatory network.