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Curr Biol. 2008 Nov 11;18(21):1700-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.09.027. Epub 2008 Oct 30.

Oscillatory phosphorylation of yeast Fus3 MAP kinase controls periodic gene expression and morphogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.

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  • Curr Biol. 2008 Dec 9;18(23):1897.


Signal-transduction networks can display complex dynamic behavior such as oscillations in the activity of key components [1-6], but it is often unclear whether such dynamic complexity is actually important for the network's regulatory functions [7, 8]. Here, we found that the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) Fus3, a key regulator of the yeast mating-pheromone response, undergoes sustained oscillations in its phosphorylation and activation state during continuous pheromone exposure. These MAPK activity oscillations led to corresponding oscillations in mating-gene expression. Oscillations in MAPK activity and gene expression required the negative regulator of G protein signaling Sst2 and partially required the MAPK phosphatase Msg5. Peaks in Fus3 activation correlated with periodic rounds of cell morphogenesis, with each peak preceding the formation of an additional mating projection. Preventing projection formation did not eliminate MAPK oscillation, but preventing MAPK oscillation blocked the formation of additional projections. A mathematical model was developed that reproduced several features of the observed oscillatory dynamics. These observations demonstrate a role for MAPK activity oscillation in driving a periodic downstream response and explain how the pheromone signaling pathway, previously thought to desensitize after 1-3 hr, controls morphology changes that continue for a much longer time.

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