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Genetics. 2007 Jun;176(2):913-25. Epub 2007 Apr 15.

Gametogenesis in the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii minus mating type is controlled by two genes, MID and MTD1.

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Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


In the unicellular algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the plus and minus mating types are controlled by a complex locus, MT, where the dominant MID gene in the MT(-) locus has been shown to be necessary for expression of minus-specific gamete-specific genes in response to nitrogen depletion. We report studies on MID expression patterns during gametogenesis and on a second gene unique to the MT(-) locus, MTD1. Vegetative cells express basal levels of MID. An early activation of MID transcription after nitrogen removal, and its sequence similarity to plant RWP-RK proteins involved in nitrogen-responsive processes, suggest that Mid conformation/activity may be nitrogen sensitive. A second stage of MID upregulation correlates with the acquisition of mating ability in minus gametes. Knockdown of MTD1 by RNAi in minus strains results in a failure to differentiate into gametes of either mating type after nitrogen deprivation. We propose that intermediate Mid levels are sufficient to activate MTD1 transcription and to repress plus gamete-specific genes and that MTD1 expression in turn allows the threshold-level MID expression needed to turn on minus gamete-specific genes. We further propose that an MTD1-equivalent system, utilizing at least one gene product encoded in the MT(+) locus, is operant during plus gametogenesis.

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