Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Peter Pryciak, Ph.D.


Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing, G1 Phase, MAP Kinase Signaling System, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins


Exposure to external stimuli promotes a variety of cellular responses including changes in morphology, gene expression and cell division status. These responses are promoted by signaling pathways composed of modules that are conserved from lower to higher eukaryotes. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae response to the external stimuli provided by mating pheromone is governed by the pheromone response pathway. This pathway is composed of a G protein coupled receptor/heterotrimeric G protein (Gαβγ) module and a MAP kinase cascade. Activation of this pathway allows the heterotrimeric G protein βγ dimer (Gβγ) to recruit polarity proteins to promote changes in cell morphology and to activate signaling through the MAP kinase cascade. Here we investigate the regulation of these pheromone-induced responses.

We first examine how an asymmetric polarization response is generated. Normally, a gradient of pheromone serves as a spatial cue for formation of a polarized mating projection, but cells can still polarize when pheromone is present uniformly. Here we show that an intact receptor/Gαβγ module is required for polarization in response to both a gradient and uniform concentration of pheromone. Further investigation into regulation of Gβγ by Gα revealed that the two interaction interfaces between Gα and Gβ have qualitatively different roles. Our results suggest that one interface controls signaling whereas the other governs coupling to the receptor. Overall our results indicate that communication between the receptor and Gαβγ is required for proper polarization.

We then examine how G1 CDKs regulate MAP kinase signaling. Response to pheromone is restricted to the G1 stage of the cell cycle. Once cells commit to a round of division they become refractory to mating pheromone until that round of division is complete. One contributor to this specificity involves inhibition of signaling through the MAP kinase cascade by G1 CDKs, but it was not known how this occurs. Here, we show that the MAP kinase cascade scaffold Ste5 is the target of this inhibition. Cln/CDKs inhibit signaling by phosphorylating sites surrounding a small membrane-binding domain in Ste5, thereby disrupting the membrane localization of Ste5. Furthermore, we found that disrupting this regulation allows cells to arrest at an aberrant non-G1 position. Our findings define a mechanism and a physiological benefit for restricting pheromone-induced signaling to G1.

This thesis describes findings related to generation of an asymmetric polarization response, heterotrimeric G protein function, and coordination of differentiation signaling with cell division status. Lessons learned here might be applicable to the regulation of polarization and differentiation responses in other systems as the signaling modules are conserved.



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