Mutations in a Single Signaling Pathway Allow Cell Growth in Heavy Water

Caroline Kampmeyer, Jens V Johansen, Christian Holmberg, Magnus Karlson, Sarah K Gersing, Heloisa N Bordallo, Birthe B Kragelund, Mathilde Hauge Lerche, Isabelle Jourdain, Jakob R Winther, Rasmus Hartmann-Petersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Life is completely dependent on water. To analyze the role of water as a solvent in biology, we replaced water with heavy water (D2O) and investigated the biological effects by a wide range of techniques, using Schizosaccharomyces pombe as model organism. We show that high concentrations of D2O lead to altered glucose metabolism and growth retardation. After prolonged incubation in D2O, cells displayed gross morphological changes, thickened cell walls, and aberrant cytoskeletal organization. By transcriptomics and genetic screens, we show that the solvent replacement activates two signaling pathways: (1) the heat-shock response pathway and (2) the cell integrity pathway. Although the heat-shock response system upregulates various chaperones and other stress-relieving enzymes, we find that the activation of this pathway does not offer any fitness advantage to the cells under the solvent-replaced conditions. However, limiting the D2O-triggered activation of the cell integrity pathway allows cell growth when H2O is completely replaced with D2O. The isolated D2O-tolerant strains may aid biological production of deuterated biomolecules.
Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)733-748
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • D2O
  • Deuterium oxide
  • Yeast
  • Cell stress
  • Protein folding
  • Cytokinesis
  • Deuteration


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