The ascomycete Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibits alternative vegetative growth states referred to as the yeast form and the filamentous form, and it switches between the two morphologies depending on specific environmental signals. To identify molecules involved in control of morphologic differentiation, this study characterized mutant S. cerevisiae strains that exhibit filamentous growth in the absence of the normal external signals. A specific amino acid substitution in the cyclin-dependent protein kinase Cdc28 was found to cause constitutive expression of most filamentous growth characteristics. These effects include specifically modified cell polarity characteristics in addition to the defined shape and division cycle alterations typical of the filamentous form. Several other mutations affecting Cdc28 function also had specific effects on filamentous growth. Constitutive filamentous growth resulting from deletion of the protein kinase Elm1 was prevented by modification of Cdc28 such that it could not be phosphorylated on tyrosine residue 19. In addition, various mutations affecting Hsl1 or Swe1, known or presumed components of a protein kinase cascade that mediates Cdc28 phosphorylation on Y19, either prevented or enhanced filamentous growth. The data suggest that a protein kinase cascade involving Elm1, Hsl1, and Swe1 can modulate Cdc28 activity and that Cdc28 in turn exerts global effects that cause filamentous growth.
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