Tetrapolar fungal mating types: sexes by the thousands

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1996 Mar;18(1):65-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.1996.tb00227.x.


In order to achieve genetic rearrangement in a sexual cycle, eukaryotes go through the processes of meiosis and mating. Different mating types assure that mating is only possible between two genetically diverse individuals. Basidiomycetous fungi display thousands of different mating types that are determined by two genetically unlinked loci. One locus is multiallelic and contains genes for homeodomain transcription factors which are able to form heterodimers. The activation of target genes is dependent on heterodimers formed from the monomeric transcription factor proteins originating from different alleles of this genetic locus. The interactions between the two monomeric transcription factors and the activation of target genes by the heterodimeric proteins make this regulatory system both complex and interesting. The second locus contains a pheromone receptor system: the pheromone receptor is similar to the G protein-linked serpentine receptors in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that activate the pheromone response via a phosphorylation signal transduction cascade in S. cerevisiae. This pheromone perception is a trigger of sexual development and not, as with yeast, itself under control of mating type genes. Rather it directly senses diversity at the mating type loci. Whereas heterobasidiomycetes display a bi-allelic structure for this locus with recognition between one receptor and the opposite pheromone, homobasidiomycetes contain multiple specificities for pheromone receptors and pheromones.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basidiomycota / genetics
  • Basidiomycota / growth & development
  • Basidiomycota / physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Fungi / genetics*
  • Fungi / growth & development
  • Fungi / physiology
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Mating Factor
  • Meiosis
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / physiology
  • Pheromones / genetics
  • Pheromones / physiology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology
  • Schizophyllum / genetics
  • Schizophyllum / growth & development
  • Schizophyllum / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Peptides
  • Pheromones
  • Transcription Factors
  • Mating Factor
  • GTP-Binding Proteins