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J Cell Biol. 1995 November 2; 131(4): 845–861.
PMCID: PMC2200002

Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells execute a default pathway to select a mate in the absence of pheromone gradients

Abstract

During conjugation, haploid S. cerevisiae cells find one another by polarizing their growth toward each other along gradients of pheromone (chemotropism). We demonstrate that yeast cells exhibit a second mating behavior: when their receptors are saturated with pheromone, wild-type a cells execute a default pathway and select a mate at random. These matings are less efficient than chemotropic matings, are induced by the same dose of pheromone that induces shmoo formation, and appear to use a site near the incipient bud site for polarization. We show that the SPA2 gene is specifically required for the default pathway: spa2 delta mutants cannot mate if pheromone concentrations are high and gradients are absent, but can mate if gradients are present. ste2 delta, sst2 delta, and far1 delta mutants are chemotropism-defective and therefore must choose a mate by using a default pathway; consistent with this deduction, these strains require SPA2 to mate. In addition, our results suggest that far1 mutants are chemotropism-defective because their mating polarity is fixed at the incipient bud site, suggesting that the FAR1 gene is required for inhibiting the use of the incipient bud site during chemotropic mating. These observations reveal a molecular relationship between the mating and budding polarity pathways.

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