Interconversion of yeast cell types by transposable genes

Genetics. 1980 Jul;95(3):631-48. doi: 10.1093/genetics/95.3.631.


The a and alpha cell types of budding yeast saccharomyces cerevisiae are controlled by alternate alleles of the mating-type locus (MAT), MATa and mat alpha. The cell types can be interconverted by switching alleles of MAT. The loci HMRa and HML alpha, which are loosely linked to MAT, are involved in mating-type switching. Experimental evidence for their role in MAT interconversion is presented. As a result of switching, the homothallic and heterothallic strains containing the amber and ochre mutations within the HMRa locus yield corresponding amber and ochre mutant mata loci. Similarly, the hml alpha mutant strain generates mat alpha mutant alleles. That is, specific mutations from HMRa and HML alpha are transmitted to MAT. A replica of the mating-type coding information originating from these loci is transposed to MAT, where it replaces the existing information. Furthermore, "Hawthorne deletions" in strains containing hmra-amber/ochre result in production of mata-amber/ochre alleles. Therefore, genetic information for MATa resides at HMRa. The switches occur in a defined set of clonally related cells. Thus, the efficient interconversion of yeast cell types is mediated by an unidirectional transfer of genetic information between nonallelic sites in a nonrandom and programmed fashion. The results are inconsistent with the "flip-flop" models, but satisfy a key prediction of the general controlling element and the specific cassette models proposed for mating-type interchange.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Genes*
  • Phenotype
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Sex Determination Analysis