The multiprotein exocyst complex is essential for cell separation in Schizosaccharomyces pombe.
Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells divide by medial fission through the use of an actomyosin-based contractile ring. A mulitlayered division septum is assembled in concert with ring constriction. Finally, cleavage of the inner layer of the division septum results in the liberation of daughter cells. Although numerous studies have focused on actomyosin ring and division septum assembly, little information is available on the mechanism of cell separation. Here we describe a mutant, sec8-1, that is defective in cell separation but not in other aspects of cytokinesis. sec8-1 mutants accumulate about 100-nm vesicles and have reduced secretion of acid phosphatase, suggesting that they are defective in exocytosis. Sec8p is a component of the exocyst complex. Using biochemical methods, we show that Sec8p physically interacts with other members of the exocyst complex, including Sec6p, Sec10p, and Exo70p. These exocyst proteins localize to regions of active exocytosis-at the growing ends of interphase cells and in the medial region of cells undergoing cytokinesis-in an F-actin-dependent and exocytosis-independent manner. Analysis of a number of mutations in various exocyst components has established that these components are essential for cell viability. Interestingly, all exocyst mutants analyzed appear to be able to elongate and to assemble division septa but are defective for cell separation. We therefore propose that the fission yeast exocyst is involved in targeting of enzymes responsible for septum cleavage. We further propose that cell elongation and division septum assembly can continue with minimal levels of exocyst function.