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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Nov 17;106(46):19387-92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907039106. Epub 2009 Nov 2.

Oscillatory recruitment of signaling proteins to cell tips promotes coordinated behavior during cell fusion.

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


Cell-cell communication is essential for coordinating physiological responses in multicellular organisms and is required for various developmental processes, including cell migration, differentiation, and fusion. To facilitate communication, functional differences are usually required between interacting cells, which can be established either genetically or developmentally. However, genetically identical cells in the same developmental state are also capable of communicating, but must avoid self-stimulation. We hypothesized that such cells must alternate their physiological state between signal sending and receiving to allow recognition and behavioral changes. To test this hypothesis, we studied cell communication in the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, a simple and experimentally amenable model system. In N. crassa, germinating asexual spores (germlings) of identical genotype chemotropically sense others in close proximity, show attraction-mediated directed growth, and ultimately undergo cell fusion. Here, we report that two proteins required for cell fusion, a MAP kinase (MAK-2) and a protein of unknown molecular function (SO), exhibit rapid oscillatory recruitment to the plasma membranes of interacting germlings undergoing chemotropic interactions via directed growth. Using an inhibitable MAK-2 variant, we show that MAK-2 kinase activity is required both for chemotropic interactions and for oscillation of MAK-2 and SO to opposing cell tips. Thus, N. crassa germlings undergoing chemotropic interactions rapidly alternate between two different physiological states, associated with signal delivery and response. Such spatiotemporal coordination of signaling allows genetically identical and developmentally equivalent cells to avoid self-stimulation and to coordinate their behavior to achieve the beneficial physiological outcome of cell fusion.

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