alpha-Factor, one of the mating pheromones of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, binds specifically to a receptor on the plasma membrane of a cells, is internalized and delivered to the vacuole, where it is degraded. At 15 degrees C the rate of pheromone uptake is only slightly affected while delivery to the vacuole is markedly slowed down. A transport intermediate carrying alpha-factor to the vacuole can be reversibly trapped by treatment with the metabolic inhibitors, NaN3 and NaF. This intermediate(s) is distinct from the vacuole and the plasma membrane as judged by differential and density gradient centrifugation analysis. We present evidence that the alpha-factor is protected from protease digestion by a detergent-sensitive structure, suggesting that the pheromone resides within a vesicular compartment. We propose that this intermediate(s) represents an endocytic or prevacuolar compartment(s) involved in vesicular traffic from the plasma membrane to the vacuole.

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