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The smc1-1 mutant was identified initially as a mutant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that had an elevated rate of minichromosome nondisjunction. We have cloned the wild-type SMC1 gene. The sequence of the SMC1 gene predicts that its product (Smc1p) is a 141-kD protein, and antibodies against Smc1 protein detect a protein with mobility of 165 kD. Analysis of the primary and putative secondary structure of Smc1p suggests that it contains two central coiled-coil regions flanked by an amino- terminal nucleoside triphosphate (NTP)-binding head and a conserved carboxy-terminal tail. These analyses also indicate that Smc1p is an evolutionary conserved protein and is a member of a new family of proteins ubiquitous among prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The SMC1 gene is essential for viability. Several phenotypic characteristics of the mutant alleles of smc1 gene indicate that its product is involved in some aspects of nuclear metabolism, most likely in chromosome segregation. The smc1-1 and smc1-2 mutants have a dramatic increase in mitotic loss of a chromosome fragment and chromosome III, respectively, but have no increase in mitotic recombination. Depletion of SMC1 function in the ts mutant, smc1-2, causes a dramatic mitosis-related lethality. Smc1p-depleted cells have a defect in nuclear division as evidenced by the absence of anaphase cells. This phenotype of the smc1- 2 mutant is not RAD9 dependent. Based upon the facts that Smc1p is a member of a ubiquitous family, and it is essential for yeast nuclear division, we propose that Smc1p and Smc1p-like proteins function in a fundamental aspect of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell division.