The alpha-mating pheromone receptor encoded by the STE2 gene of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that is homologous to the large family of GPCRs that mediate multiple types of signal transduction in mammals. We have screened libraries of mutant receptors to identify dominant negative alleles that are capable of interfering with the function of a co-expressed normal receptor. Two dominant negative alleles have been recovered in this manner. In addition, we find that previously isolated loss-of-function mutations in the alpha-factor receptor exhibit dominant negative effects. Detection of the dominant effects requires high-level expression of the mutant receptors but does not require a high ratio of mutant to normal receptors. Cellular levels of the normal receptors are not affected by co-expression of the dominant negative alleles. Expression of the mutant receptors does not interfere with constitutive signaling in a strain that lacks the G protein alpha subunit encoded by GPA1, indicating that interference with signaling occurs at the level of the receptor or the interacting G protein. Expression of increased levels of G protein subunits partially reverses the dominant negative effects. The dominant negative behavior of the mutant receptors is diminished by deletion of the SST2 gene, which encodes an RGS (Regulator of G protein Signaling) protein involved in desensitization of pheromone signaling. The most likely explanation for the dominant negative effects of the mutations appears to be the existence of an interaction between unactivated receptors and the trimeric G protein that titrates the G protein away from the normal receptors or renders the G protein insensitive to receptor activation. This interaction appears to be mediated by the SST2 gene product.
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