Despite the importance of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling in eukaryotic biology, the mechanisms by which signaling yields phenotypic changes are poorly understood. We have combined transcriptional profiling with genetics to determine how the Kss1 MAPK signaling pathway controls dimorphic development in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This analysis identified dozens of transcripts that are regulated by the pathway, whereas previous work had identified only a single downstream target, FLO11. One of the MAPK-regulated genes is PGU1, which encodes a secreted enzyme that hydrolyzes polygalacturonic acid, a structural barrier to microbial invasion present in the natural plant substrate of S. cerevisiae. A third key transcriptional target is the G(1) cyclin gene CLN1, a morphogenetic regulator that we show to be essential for pseudohyphal growth. In contrast, the homologous CLN2 cyclin gene is dispensable for development. Thus, the Kss1 MAPK cascade programs development by coordinately modulating a cell adhesion factor, a secreted host-destroying activity, and a specialized subunit of the Cdc28 cyclin-dependent kinase.
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