The Saccharomyces cerevisiae transcription factor Ste12 controls two distinct developmental programs of mating and filamentation. Ste12 activity is regulated by Fus3 and Kss1 mitogen-activated protein kinases through two Ste12 inhibitors, Dig1 and Dig2. Mating genes are regulated by Ste12 through Ste12 binding sites (pheromone response elements [PREs]), whereas filamentation genes are supposedly regulated by the cooperative binding of Ste12 and Tec1 on a PRE adjacent to a Tec1-binding site (TCS), termed filamentous responsive element (FRE). However, most filamentation genes do not contain an FRE; instead, they all have a TCS. By immunoprecipitation, we show that Ste12 forms two distinct complexes, Ste12/Dig1/Dig2 and Tec1/Ste12/Dig1, both in vivo and in vitro. The two complexes are formed by the competitive binding of Tec1 and Dig2 with Ste12, as Tec1 can compete off Dig2 from Ste12 in vitro and in vivo. In the Tec1/Ste12/Dig1 complex, Tec1 binds to the N terminus of Ste12 and to Dig1 indirectly through Ste12. Tec1 has low basal activity, and its transcriptional activation is provided by the associated Ste12, which is under Dig1 inhibition. Filamentation genes are bound by the Tec1/Ste12/Dig1 complex, whereas mating genes are occupied by mostly Ste12/Dig1/Dig2 with some Tec1/Ste12/Dig1. We suggest that Tec1 tethers Ste12 to TCS elements upstream of filamentation genes and defines the filamentation genes as a subset of Ste12-regulated genes.
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