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Mol Biol Cell. 2000 Nov;11(11):4033-49.

Mutational analysis suggests that activation of the yeast pheromone response mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway involves conformational changes in the Ste5 scaffold protein.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3202, USA.


Ste5 is essential for pheromone response and binds components of a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade: Ste11 (MEKK), Ste7 (MEK), and Fus3 (MAPK). Pheromone stimulation releases Gbetagamma (Ste4-Ste18), which recruits Ste5 and Ste20 (p21-activated kinase) to the plasma membrane, activating the MAPK cascade. A RING-H2 domain in Ste5 (residues 177-229) negatively regulates Ste5 function and mediates its interaction with Gbetagamma. Ste5(C177A C180A), carrying a mutated RING-H2 domain, cannot complement a ste5Delta mutation, yet supports mating even in ste4Delta ste5Delta cells when artificially dimerized by fusion to glutathione S-transferase (GST). In contrast, wild-type Ste5 fused to GST permits mating of ste5Delta cells, but does not allow mating of ste4Delta ste5Delta cells. This differential behavior provided the basis of a genetic selection for STE5 gain-of-function mutations. MATa ste4Delta ste5Delta cells expressing Ste5-GST were mutagenized chemically and plasmids conferring the capacity to mate were selected. Three independent single-substitution mutations were isolated. These constitutive STE5 alleles induce cell cycle arrest, transcriptional activation, and morphological changes normally triggered by pheromone, even when Gbetagamma is absent. The first, Ste5(C226Y), alters the seventh conserved position in the RING-H2 motif, confirming that perturbation of this domain constitutively activates Ste5 function. The second, Ste5(P44L), lies upstream of a basic segment, whereas the third, Ste5(S770K), is situated within an acidic segment in a region that contacts Ste7. None of the mutations increased the affinity of Ste5 for Ste11, Ste7, or Fus3. However, the positions of these novel-activating mutations suggested that, in normal Ste5, the N terminus may interact with the C terminus. Indeed, in vitro, GST-Ste5(1-518) was able to associate specifically with radiolabeled Ste5(520-917). Furthermore, both the P44L and S770K mutations enhanced binding of full-length Ste5 to GST-Ste5(1-518), whereas they did not affect Ste5 dimerization. Thus, binding of Gbetagamma to the RING-H2 domain may induce a conformational change that promotes association of the N- and C-terminal ends of Ste5, stimulating activation of the MAPK cascade by optimizing orientation of the bound kinases and/or by increasing their accessibility to Ste20-dependent phosphorylation (or both). In accord with this model, the novel Ste5 mutants copurified with Ste7 and Fus3 in their activated state and their activation required Ste20.

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