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EMBO J. 1990 May;9(5):1401-6.

The pat1 protein kinase controls transcription of the mating-type genes in fission yeast.

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Institute of Genetics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


The developmental programme of fission yeast brings about a transition from mitotic cell division to the dormant state of ascospores. In response to nitrogen starvation, two cells of opposite mating type conjugate to form a diploid zygote, which then undergoes meiosis and sporulation. This differentiation process is characterized by a transcriptional induction of the mating-type genes. Conjugation can also be induced in pat1-ts mutants by a shift to a semi-permissive temperature. The pat1 gene encodes a protein kinase, which also functions further downstream in the developmental pathway controlling entry into meiosis. We have analysed transcriptional induction of mating-type genes in various strains--with and without a pat1-ts allele. In wild-type cells of P-mating type derepression occurs in two rounds. First, the mat1-Pc gene is induced in response to nitrogen starvation. Mutants in the map1 gene are defective in this process. In the following step the mat1-Pm gene is expressed in response to a pheromone signal generated by cells of M mating type. Both these controls are derepressed in the pat1-ts mutant at semipermissive temperature. Previous work has established that expression of the mating-type genes in the zygote leads to complete loss of pat1 protein kinase activity causing entry into meiosis. Thus, pat1 can promote its own inactivation. We suggest a model according to which a stepwise inactivation of pat1 leads to sequential derepression of the processes of conjugation and meiosis.

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