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PLoS Genet. 2010 Jan 22;6(1):e1000823. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000823.

Environmental and genetic determinants of colony morphology in yeast.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.


Nutrient stresses trigger a variety of developmental switches in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. One of the least understood of such responses is the development of complex colony morphology, characterized by intricate, organized, and strain-specific patterns of colony growth and architecture. The genetic bases of this phenotype and the key environmental signals involved in its induction have heretofore remained poorly understood. By surveying multiple strain backgrounds and a large number of growth conditions, we show that limitation for fermentable carbon sources coupled with a rich nitrogen source is the primary trigger for the colony morphology response in budding yeast. Using knockout mutants and transposon-mediated mutagenesis, we demonstrate that two key signaling networks regulating this response are the filamentous growth MAP kinase cascade and the Ras-cAMP-PKA pathway. We further show synergistic epistasis between Rim15, a kinase involved in integration of nutrient signals, and other genes in these pathways. Ploidy, mating-type, and genotype-by-environment interactions also appear to play a role in the controlling colony morphology. Our study highlights the high degree of network reuse in this model eukaryote; yeast use the same core signaling pathways in multiple contexts to integrate information about environmental and physiological states and generate diverse developmental outputs.

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