In Schizosaccharomyces pombe, meiosis is initiated by conditions of nutrient deprivation. Mutations in genes encoding elements of the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (cAPK) pathway interfere with meiosis. Loss-of-function alleles of genes that stimulate the activity of cAPK allow cells to bypass the normal requirement of starvation for conjugation and meiosis. Alternatively, loss-of-function alleles of genes that inhibit cAPK lead to the inability to undergo sexual differentiation. The cgs1+ gene encodes the regulatory subunit of cAPK, and the cgs2+ gene encodes a cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase. Thus, both genes encode proteins which negatively regulate the activity of cAPK. Loss of either cgs1 or cgs2 prevents haploid cells from conjugating and diploid cells from undergoing meiosis. In addition to these defects, cells are unable to enter stationary phase. We describe a novel gene, sak1+, which when present on a plasmid overcomes the aberrant phenotypes associated with unregulated cAPK activity. Genetic analysis of sak1+ (suppressor of A-kinase) reveals that it functions downstream of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase to allow cells to exist the mitotic cycle and enter either stationary phase or the pathway leading to sexual differentiation. The sak1+ gene is essential for cell viability, and a null allele causes multiple defects in cell morphology and nuclear division. Thus, sak1+ is an important regulatory element in the life cycle of S. pombe. Sequence analysis shows that the predicted product of the sak1+ gene is an 87-kDa protein which shares homology to the RFX family of DNA-binding proteins identified in humans and mice. One member of this family, RFX1, is a transcription factor for a variety of viral and cellular genes.
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