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Genes Dev. 1991 Apr;5(4):605-15.

Mutations in the HML E silencer of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yield metastable inheritance of transcriptional repression.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Princeton University, New Jersey 08544.


Mating-type genes resident in the silent cassette HML at the left arm of chromosome III are repressed by the action of four SIR gene products, mediated independently through two cis-acting sites, termed the E and I silencers. We have found that in the absence of the I silencer, deletion of any one of three distinct elements within E yields partial derepression of the mating-type genes resident at HML, whereas deletion of any two yields full derepression. These elements correspond to a binding site for the abundant DNA-binding protein RAP1, an autonomous replicating sequence (ARS), and an as yet undistinguished region. From detailed deletion analysis of the E site we conclude that the ARS element contributes to silencer function in a capacity distinct from its role as an initiator of DNA replication. In addition, we find that strains deleted for any one of these elements comprise two genetically identical but phenotypically distinct types of cells: Those with HML apparently fully derepressed, and those with HML apparently completely repressed. These results reinforce the notion that epigenetic inheritance is an intrinsic characteristic of silencer action.

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