A genetic analysis was undertaken to investigate the mechanisms controlling cellular morphogenesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Sixty mutant strains exhibiting abnormally elongated cell morphology were isolated. The cell elongation phenotype in at least 26 of the strains resulted from a single recessive mutation. These mutations, designated generically elm (elongated morphology), defined 14 genes; two of these corresponded to the previously described genes GRR1 and CDC12. Genetic interactions between mutant alleles suggest that several ELM genes play roles in the same physiological process. The cell and colony morphology and growth properties of many elm mutant strains are similar to those of wild-type yeast strains after differentiation in response to nitrogen limitation into the pseudohyphal form. Each elm mutation resulted in multiple characteristics of pseudohyphal cells, including elongated cell shape, delay in cell separation, simultaneous budding of mother and daughter cells, a unipolar budding pattern, and/or the ability to grow invasively beneath the agar surface. Mutations in 11 of the 14 ELM gene loci potentiated pseudohyphal differentiation in nitrogen-limited medium. Thus, a subset of the ELM genes are likely to affect control or execution of a defined morphologic differentiation pathway in S. cerevisiae.
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