A super-assembly of Whi3 encodes memory of deceptive encounters by single cells during yeast courtship

Cell. 2013 Dec 5;155(6):1244-57. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.10.046.


Cellular behavior is frequently influenced by the cell's history, indicating that single cells may memorize past events. We report that budding yeast permanently escape pheromone-induced cell-cycle arrest when experiencing a deceptive mating attempt, i.e., not reaching their putative partner within reasonable time. This acquired behavior depends on super-assembly and inactivation of the G1/S inhibitor Whi3, which liberates the G1 cyclin Cln3 from translational inhibition. Super-assembly of Whi3 is a slow response to pheromone, driven by polyQ and polyN domains, counteracted by Hsp70, and stable over generations. Unlike prion aggregates, Whi3 super-assemblies are not inherited mitotically but segregate to the mother cell. We propose that such polyQ- and polyN-based elements, termed here mnemons, act as cellular memory devices to encode previous environmental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cyclins / chemistry
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Mating Factor / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / chemistry
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism*


  • CLN3 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Cyclins
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Pheromones
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Receptors, Mating Factor
  • STE2 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Whi3 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • SSA1 protein, S cerevisiae