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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 Aug;14(8):5333-48.

Developmental decisions in Aspergillus nidulans are modulated by Ras activity.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Jefferson Cancer Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.


To better understand how Ras controls development of multicellular organisms, we have chosen Aspergillus nidulans as a model system. When grown on solid medium, this fungus follows a well-defined program of development, sequentially giving rise to several cell types which produce three distinct structures: vegetative hyphae, aerial hyphae, and the conidiophore structure. Here we describe a ras homolog found in this fungus (Aras) and demonstrate that it is an essential gene that regulates the ordered program of development. We created dominant alleles of this gene and expressed them to different levels in order to vary the ratio of GTP-bound (active) to GDP-bound (inactive) A-Ras protein. When the amount of active Ras is large, nuclear division proceeds, but further development is inhibited at the early step of germ tube formation. At an intermediate level of active Ras, aerial hypha formation is inhibited, while at a low level, conidiophore formation is inhibited. Maintenance of an even lower level of the active Ras is essential for initiation and progression of conidiophore formation, the final stage of development. When the level of active Ras is artificially lowered, each stage of development is initiated prematurely except germination, the initial stage of development. Therefore, the progression of the ordered developmental pathway of A. nidulans is dependent upon an initial high level of active Ras followed by its gradual decrease. We propose that several concentration threshold exist, each of which allows development to proceed to a certain point, producing the proper cell type while inhibiting further development.

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