The morphology of three Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains, all lacking chitin synthase 1 (Chs1) and two of them deficient in either Chs3 (calR1 mutation) or Chs2 was observed by light and electron microscopy. Cells deficient in Chs2 showed clumpy growth and aberrant shape and size. Their septa were very thick; the primary septum was absent. Staining with WGA-gold complexes revealed a diffuse distribution of chitin in the septum, whereas chitin was normally located at the neck between mother cell and bud and in the wall of mother cells. Strains deficient in Chs3 exhibited minor abnormalities in budding pattern and shape. Their septa were thin and trilaminar. Staining for chitin revealed a thin line of the polysaccharide along the primary septum; no chitin was present elsewhere in the wall. Therefore, Chs2 is specific for primary septum formation, whereas Chs3 is responsible for chitin in the ring at bud emergence and in the cell wall. Chs3 is also required for chitin synthesized in the presence of alpha-pheromone or deposited in the cell wall of cdc mutants at nonpermissive temperature, and for chitosan in spore walls. Genetic evidence indicated that a mutant lacking all three chitin synthases was inviable; this was confirmed by constructing a triple mutant rescued by a plasmid carrying a CHS2 gene under control of a GAL1 promoter. Transfer of the mutant from galactose to glucose resulted in cell division arrest followed by cell death. We conclude that some chitin synthesis is essential for viability of yeast cells.

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