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PLoS Genet. 2014 Nov 20;10(11):e1004762. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004762. eCollection 2014 Nov.

Fungal communication requires the MAK-2 pathway elements STE-20 and RAS-2, the NRC-1 adapter STE-50 and the MAP kinase scaffold HAM-5.

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Institute for Biology II - Molecular Plant Physiology, Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Institute for Microbiology and Genetics, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany.
Institute for Biology II - Molecular Plant Physiology, Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany; Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


Intercellular communication is critical for the survival of unicellular organisms as well as for the development and function of multicellular tissues. Cell-to-cell signaling is also required to develop the interconnected mycelial network characteristic of filamentous fungi and is a prerequisite for symbiotic and pathogenic host colonization achieved by molds. Somatic cell-cell communication and subsequent cell fusion is governed by the MAK-2 mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade in the filamentous ascomycete model Neurospora crassa, yet the composition and mode of regulation of the MAK-2 pathway are currently unclear. In order to identify additional components involved in MAK-2 signaling we performed affinity purification experiments coupled to mass spectrometry with strains expressing functional GFP-fusion proteins of the MAPK cascade. This approach identified STE-50 as a regulatory subunit of the Ste11p homolog NRC-1 and HAM-5 as cell-communication-specific scaffold protein of the MAPK cascade. Moreover, we defined a network of proteins consisting of two Ste20-related kinases, the small GTPase RAS-2 and the adenylate cyclase capping protein CAP-1 that function upstream of the MAK-2 pathway and whose signals converge on the NRC-1/STE-50 MAP3K complex and the HAM-5 scaffold. Finally, our data suggest an involvement of the striatin interacting phosphatase and kinase (STRIPAK) complex, the casein kinase 2 heterodimer, the phospholipid flippase modulators YPK-1 and NRC-2 and motor protein-dependent vesicle trafficking in the regulation of MAK-2 pathway activity and function. Taken together, these data will have significant implications for our mechanistic understanding of MAPK signaling and for homotypic cell-cell communication in fungi and higher eukaryotes.

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