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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Selective inhibition of yeast regulons by daunorubicin: A transcriptome-wide analysis

Marta Rojas, Marta Casado, José Portugal and Benjamin Piña*

Author Affiliations

Institut for Molecular Biology of Barcelona, IBMB-CSIC, Jordi Girona, 18. 08034 Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:358  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-358

Published: 30 July 2008



The antitumor drug daunorubicin exerts some of its cytotoxic effects by binding to DNA and inhibiting the transcription of different genes. We analysed this effect in vivo at the transcriptome level using the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model and sublethal (IC40) concentrations of the drug to minimise general toxic effects.


Daunorubicin affected a minor proportion (14%) of the yeast transcriptome, increasing the expression of 195 genes and reducing expression of 280 genes. Daunorubicin down-regulated genes included essentially all genes involved in the glycolytic pathway, the tricarboxylic acid cycle and alcohol metabolism, whereas transcription of ribosomal protein genes was not affected or even slightly increased. This pattern is consistent with a specific inhibition of glucose usage in treated cells, with only minor effects on proliferation or other basic cell functions. Analysis of promoters of down-regulated genes showed that they belong to a limited number of transcriptional regulatory units (regulons). Consistently, data mining showed that daunorubicin-induced changes in expression patterns were similar to those observed in yeast strains deleted for some transcription factors functionally related to the glycolysis and/or the cAMP regulatory pathway, which appeared to be particularly sensitive to daunorubicin.


The effects of daunorubicin treatment on the yeast transcriptome are consistent with a model in which this drug impairs binding of different transcription factors by competing for their DNA binding sequences, therefore limiting their effectiveness and affecting the corresponding regulatory networks. This proposed mechanism might have broad therapeutic implications against cancer cells growing under hypoxic conditions.