Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Chemical Genetic Interactions of Statin Drugs with Their Target Genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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posted on 2021-11-10, 04:18 authored by Busby, Bede P

Statins, competitive inhibitors of the rate limiting cholesterol/ergosterol enzymes HMG-CoA reductase (HMG1 and HMG2), are the most widely prescribed human therapeutic drugs. They are effective in lowering cholesterol levels in atherosclerosis and related syndromes. However, statins exhibit a range of pleiotropic side effects whose mechanisms are poorly understood. This study investigates statin pleiotropy by analysis of genetic interaction networks in yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which shows high homology to mammalian pathways affected by statins. Synthetic genetic array (SGA) analysis allows elucidation of functional genetic networks of genes of interest ("query genes") by  measurement of genetic epistasis in double mutants of the query gene with the genome - wide deletion mutant array of ~4800 non-essential strains. Chemicalgenetic profiling is similar where a SMP may effectively replace the query gene in genome wide epistatic analysis. The genetic interaction networks resulting from use of HMG1 and HMG2 as query genes for SGA analysis were compared to the chemical-genetic profiles of atorvastatin, cerivastatin and lovastatin. The genes ARV1, BTS1, OPI3 displaying phenotypic enhancements (i.e. their deletion caused major growth inhibition) with statins became essential in the presence of all the statins. Two mitochondrial genes, COX17 and MMM1, showed phenotypic suppressions (i.e. their deletion allowed better growth) in common to all three statin drugs. An attractive hypothesis is that major pleiotropic effects of statins could be due to variation in function or expression of these enhancing or suppressing genes. Other processes compensating statin use were also elucidated. For example, when HMG1 and its epistatically interacting genes are shut down by deletion coupled with inhibition of HMG2 with statin, there is strong evidence that the cell attempts to maintain membrane/lipid homeostasis via anterograde and retrograde transport mechanisms, including the mobilisation of lipid storage droplets. To aid refinement of genetic analysis in this and future studies, a more direct phenotypic assay was developed for quantifying ergosterol. Such an assay may be used as a phenotype to map the effect of up - and downstream - genes, or network genes affecting ergosterol levels. This assay was used to quantify ergosterol in a drug - resistant mutant developed by others aiding confirmation of the drug target.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Cell and Molecular Bioscience

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Atkinson, Paul