The cysteine-rich PLAC8 domain of unknown function occurs in proteins found in most Eukaryotes. PLAC8-proteins play important yet diverse roles in different organisms, such as control of cell proliferation in animals and plants or heavy metal resistance in plants and fungi. Mammalian Onzin can be either pro-proliferative or pro-apoptotic, depending on the cell type, whereas fungal FCR1 confers cadmium tolerance. Despite their different role in different organisms, we hypothesized common ancestral functions linked to the PLAC8 domain. To address this hypothesis, and to investigate the molecular function of the PLAC8 domain, murine Onzin and fungal FCR1 were expressed in the PLAC8-free yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The two PLAC8-proteins localized in the nucleus and induced almost identical phenotypes and transcriptional changes when exposed to cadmium stress. Like FCR1, Onzin also reduced DNA damage and increased cadmium tolerance by a DUN1-dependent pathway. Both proteins activated transcription of ancient mitochondrial pathways such as leucine and Fe-S cluster biosynthesis, known to regulate cell proliferation and DNA repair in yeast. These results strongly suggest a common ancestral function of PLAC8 proteins and open new perspectives to understand the role of the PLAC8 domain in the cellular biology of Eukaryotes.
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