The Fission Yeast GATA Factor, Gaf1, Modulates Sexual Development via Direct Down-Regulation of ste11+ Expression in Response to Nitrogen Starvation
by Lila Kim, Kwang-Lae Hoe, Yeong Man Yu, Ji-Hyun Yeon, Pil Jae Maeng
Gaf1 is the first GATA family zinc-finger transcription factor identified in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Here, we report that Gaf1 functions as a negatively acting transcription factor of ste11+, delaying the entrance of cells exposed to transient nitrogen starvation into the meiotic cycle. gaf1Δ strains exhibited accelerated G1-arrest upon nitrogen starvation. Moreover, gaf1Δ mutation caused increased mating and sporulation frequency under both nitrogen-starved and unstarved conditions, while overexpression of gaf1+ led to a significant impairment of sporulation. By microarray analysis, we found that approximately 63% (116 genes) of the 183 genes up-regulated in unstarved gaf1Δ cells were nitrogen starvation-responsive genes, and furthermore that 25 genes among the genes up-regulated by gaf1Δ mutation are Ste11 targets (e.g., gpa1+, ste4+, spk1+, ste11+, and mei2+). The phenotype caused by gaf1Δ mutation was masked by ste11Δ mutation, indicating that ste11+ is epistatic to gaf1+ with respect to sporulation efficiency, and accordingly that gaf1+ functions upstream of ste11+ in the signaling pathway governing sexual development. gaf1Δ strains showed accelerated ste11+ expression under nitrogen starvation and increased ste11+ expression even under normal conditions. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay analysis demonstrated that Gaf1 specifically binds to the canonical GATA motif (5′-HGATAR-3′) spanning from −371 to −366 in ste11+ promoter. Consequently, Gaf1 provides the prime example for negative regulation of ste11+ transcription through direct binding to a cis-acting motif of its promoter.
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