Tetrahymena is able to adapt to the presence of sublethal concentrations of many drugs which inhibit a wide variety of cellular functions. In spite of the generality of this phenomenon in Tetrahymena, the mechanism of adaptation at the cellular and molecular levels is unknown. This study deals mainly with adaptation to the protein synthesis inhibitors, cycloheximide and emetine. The physiological response of Tetrahymena to sublethal concentrations of these drugs is an immediate cessation of cell division for a period of time dependent on the drug concentration, followed by an abrupt resumption of exponential growth at a constant rate. By measuring the length of the growth lags under a variety of experimental conditions, we have confirmed several observations made by Frankel and coworkers, and provide evidence for two new phenomena associated with adaptation to cycloheximide: (a) adaptation to cycloheximide also results in adaptation of cells to emetine, another protein synthesis inhibitor not closely related structurally to cycloheximide. We have termed this phenomenon cross adaptation, (b) exposure to concentrations of cycloheximide too low to cause any growth lags or inhibition of protein synthesis significantly shortens the time required by cells to adapt to higher concentrations of cycloheximide. We have termed this phenomenon facilitation. Facilitation shows some degree of specificity in that facilitation with cycloheximide has no effect on adaptation to emetine. From this, we infer the existence of two distinct systems involved in adaptation to cycloheximide, one of which shows a higher degree of specificity towards cycloheximide than the other. We also show that transfer of adapted or facilitated cells to drug-free medium results in a gradual but complete resensitization. The kinetics of resensitization suggest that the cellular machinery responsible for adaptation and facilitation does not leave the cell, but is simply diluted out during cell division.

This content is only available as a PDF.