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Eukaryot Cell. 2005 May;4(5):920-30.

The so locus is required for vegetative cell fusion and postfertilization events in Neurospora crassa.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-3102, USA.


The process of cell fusion is a basic developmental feature found in most eukaryotic organisms. In filamentous fungi, cell fusion events play an important role during both vegetative growth and sexual reproduction. We employ the model organism Neurospora crassa to dissect the mechanisms of cell fusion and cell-cell communication involved in fusion processes. In this study, we characterized a mutant with a mutation in the gene so, which exhibits defects in cell fusion. The so mutant has a pleiotropic phenotype, including shortened aerial hyphae, an altered conidiation pattern, and female sterility. Using light microscopy and heterokaryon tests, the so mutant was shown to possess defects in germling and hyphal fusion. Although so produces conidial anastomosis tubes, so germlings did not home toward wild-type germlings nor were wild-type germlings attracted to so germlings. We employed a trichogyne attraction and fusion assay to determine whether the female sterility of the so mutant is caused by impaired communication or fusion failure between mating partners. so showed no defects in attraction or fusion between mating partners, indicating that so is specific for vegetative hyphal fusion and/or associated communication events. The so gene encodes a protein of unknown function, but which contains a WW domain; WW domains are predicted to be involved in protein-protein interactions. Database searches showed that so was conserved in the genomes of filamentous ascomycete fungi but was absent in ascomycete yeast and basidiomycete species.

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