When starved for nitrogen, MATa/MAT alpha cells of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae undergo a dimorphic transition to pseudohyphal growth. A visual genetic screen, called PHD (pseudohyphal determinant), for S. cerevisiae pseudohyphal growth mutants was developed. The PHD screen was used to identify seven S. cerevisiae genes that when overexpressed in MATa/MAT alpha cells growing on nitrogen starvation medium cause precocious and unusually vigorous pseudohyphal growth. PHD1, a gene whose overexpression induced invasive pseudohyphal growth on a nutritionally rich medium, was characterized. PHD1 maps to chromosome XI and is predicted to encode a 366-amino-acid protein. PHD1 has a SWI4- and MBP1-like DNA binding motif that is 73% identical over 100 amino acids to a region of Aspergillus nidulans StuA. StuA regulates two pseudohyphal growth-like cell divisions during conidiophore morphogenesis. Epitope-tagged PHD1 was localized to the nucleus by indirect immunofluorescence. These facts suggest that PHD1 may function as a transcriptional regulatory protein. Overexpression of PHD1 in wild-type haploid strains does not induce pseudohyphal growth. Interestingly, PHD1 overexpression enhances pseudohyphal growth in a haploid strain that has the diploid polar budding pattern because of a mutation in the BUD4 gene. In addition, wild-type diploid strains lacking PHD1 undergo pseudohyphal growth when starved for nitrogen. The possible functions of PHD1 in pseudohyphal growth and the uses of the PHD screen to identify morphogenetic regulatory genes from heterologous organisms are discussed.
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