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Cell. 1996 Feb 23;84(4):633-42.

Loss of transcriptional silencing causes sterility in old mother cells of S. cerevisiae.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 02139, USA.


We show that sterility is an aging-specific phenotype in S. cerevisiae and, by genetic and physical means, demonstrate that this phenotype results from a loss of silencing in most old cells by the SIR complex at the HM loci. This loss of silencing is specific because transcription of genes, such as ME14 and DCM1, normally induced by sporulation, is not observed, while transcription of HMRa is observed. These findings pinpoint the molecular cause of an aging-specific phenotype in yeast. Further, they provide direct evidence for a breakdown of silencing in old cells, as predicted from earlier findings that SIR4 is a determinant of life span in this organism.

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