Dynamics of cell wall elasticity pattern shapes the cell during yeast mating morphogenesis

Open Biol. 2016 Sep;6(9):160136. doi: 10.1098/rsob.160136.


The cell wall defines cell shape and maintains integrity of fungi and plants. When exposed to mating pheromone, Saccharomyces cerevisiae grows a mating projection and alters in morphology from spherical to shmoo form. Although structural and compositional alterations of the cell wall accompany shape transitions, their impact on cell wall elasticity is unknown. In a combined theoretical and experimental approach using finite-element modelling and atomic force microscopy (AFM), we investigated the influence of spatially and temporally varying material properties on mating morphogenesis. Time-resolved elasticity maps of shmooing yeast acquired with AFM in vivo revealed distinct patterns, with soft material at the emerging mating projection and stiff material at the tip. The observed cell wall softening in the protrusion region is necessary for the formation of the characteristic shmoo shape, and results in wider and longer mating projections. The approach is generally applicable to tip-growing fungi and plants cells.

Keywords: Saccharomyces cerevisiae; atomic force microscopy; cell wall elasticity; finite-element modelling; tip growth; turgor pressure.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Shape / physiology*
  • Cell Wall / physiology*
  • Elasticity
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Kinetics
  • Mating Factor / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Models, Biological
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology


  • Mating Factor