Department of Biochemistry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1Y6, Canada.
The mammalian NRAMP gene family has two members, NRAMP1 and NRAMP2 that encode integral membrane proteins. Nramp1 is expressed exclusively in macrophages where it is found in the phagosomal membrane, and NRAMP1 mutations cause susceptibility to infection by abrogating the capacity of macrophages to control intracellular microbial replication. Nramp2 is highly similar to Nramp1, but is expressed in several tissues and cell types. The Nramp protein family is remarkably conserved throughout evolution, and recent data suggest that the mammalian Nramp2 and the yeast homologues Smf1 and Smf2 transport divalent cations. We tested whether structural similarity between the mammalian Nramp and the yeast Smf proteins results in functional complementation in yeast. Wild-type and mutant variants of the Nramp1 and Nramp2 proteins were expressed in a yeast mutant bearing null alleles at the SMF1 and SMF2 loci, and complementation of the phenotypes of this yeast mutant was investigated. Nramp2, but not Nramp1, was found to complement hypersensitivity to EGTA of the smf1/smf2 mutant under oxidative stress conditions (methyl viologen). We also observed that the smf1/smf2 double mutant is hypersensitive to growth at alkaline pH (pH 7.9) and that Nramp2 could complement this phenotype as well. Complementation by Nramp2 was specific and required a functional protein as independent mutations in residues highly conserved in all members of the Nramp family abrogated Nramp2 complementation. Since Mn2+ was the only divalent cation capable of completely suppressing both the EGTA and pH phenotypes, our results suggest that Nramp2 can transport Mn2+ in yeast.