Masking and purging mutations following EMS treatment in haploid, diploid and tetraploid yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)

Genet Res. 2001 Feb;77(1):9-26. doi: 10.1017/s0016672300004821.


The yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, was used as a model to investigate theories of ploidy evolution. Mutagenesis experiments using the alkylating agent EMS (ethane methyl sulphonate) were conducted to assess the relative importance that masking of deleterious mutations has on response to and recovery from DNA damage. In particular, we tested whether cells with higher ploidy levels have relatively higher fitnesses after mutagenesis, whether the advantages of masking are more pronounced in tetraploids than in diploids, and whether purging of mutations allows more rapid recovery of haploid cells than cells with higher ploidy levels. Separate experiments were performed on asexually propagating stationary phase cells using (1) prototrophic haploid (MAT alpha) and diploid (MATa/alpha) strains and (2) isogenic haploid, diploid and tetraploid strains lacking a functional mating type locus. In both sets of experiments, haploids showed a more pronounced decrease in apparent growth rate than diploids, but both haploids and diploids appeared to recover very rapidly. Tetraploids did not show increased benefits of masking compared with diploids but volume measurements and FACScan analyses on the auxotrophic strains indicated that all treated tetraploid strains decreased in ploidy level and that some of the treated haploid lines increased in ploidy level. Results from these experiments confirm that while masking deleterious mutations provides an immediate advantage to higher ploidy levels in the presence of mutagens, selection is extremely efficient at removing induced mutations, leading growth rates to increase rapidly over time at all ploidy levels. Furthermore, ploidy level is itself a mutable trait in the presence of EMS, with both haploids and tetraploids often evolving towards diploidy (the ancestral state of S. cerevisiae) during the course of the experiment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Separation
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • DNA / drug effects*
  • DNA Damage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethyl Methanesulfonate*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Fungal / genetics
  • Genes, Mating Type, Fungal
  • Genotype
  • Mating Factor
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutagens*
  • Mutation*
  • Peptides
  • Ploidies
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Time Factors


  • Mutagens
  • Peptides
  • Mating Factor
  • DNA
  • Ethyl Methanesulfonate