Nickel enhances telomeric silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Limor Broday, Jian Cai, Max Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Certain nickel compounds including crystalline nickel sulfide (NiS) and subsulfide (Ni3S2) are potent human and animal carcinogens. In Chinese hamster embryo cells, an X-linked senescence gene was inactivated following nickel-induced DNA methylation. Nickel also induced the inactivation of the gpt reporter gene by chromatin condensation and a DNA methylation process in a transgenic gpt+ Chinese hamster cell line (G12), which is located near a heterochromatic region. To determine if nickel can cause gene silencing independently of DNA methylation, based only on the induction of changes in chromatin structure, we measured its effect on gene silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Growth of yeast in the presence of nickel chloride repressed a telomeric marker gene (URA3) and resulted in a stable epigenetic switch. This phenomenon was dependent on the number of cell doubling prior to selection and also on the distance of the marker gene from the end of the chromosome. The level of TPE (telomeric position effect) increased linearly with elevations of nickel concentration. Addition of magnesium inhibited this effect, but magnesium did not silence the reporter gene by itself. The level of silencing was also assessed following treatment with other transition metals: cobalt, copper and cadmium. In the sublethal range, cobalt induced similar effects as nickel, while copper and cadmium did not change the basal level of gene expression. Silencing by copper and cadmium were evident only at concentrations of those metals where the viability was very low. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 6 Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Chromatin condensation
  • Gene position
  • Heavy metal
  • Inheritance


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