Regulated gene expression makes an important contribution to cell cycle control mechanisms. In fission yeast, a group of genes is coordinately expressed during a late stage of the cell cycle (M phase and cytokinesis) that is controlled by common cis-acting promoter motifs named pombe cell cycle boxes (PCBs), which are bound by a trans-acting transcription factor complex, PCB binding factor (PBF). PBF contains at least three transcription factors, a MADS box protein Mbx1p and two forkhead transcription factors, Sep1p and Fkh2p. Here we show that the fission yeast Cdc14p-like phosphatase Clp1p (Flp1p) controls M-G1 specific gene expression through PBF. Clp1p binds in vivo both to Mbx1p, a MADS box-like transcription factor, and to the promoters of genes transcribed at this cell cycle time. Because Clp1p dephosphorylates Mbx1p in vitro, and is required for Mbx1p cell cycle-specific dephosphorylation in vivo, our observations suggest that Clp1p controls cell cycle-specific gene expression through binding to and dephosphorylating Mbx1p.
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