Adhesion between Chlamydomonas reinhardtii gametes generates a rapid rise in cAMP levels which stimulates mating responses and zygotic cell fusion (Pasquale and Goodenough, 1987). We show here that sexual adhesion in vivo results in a twofold stimulation of flagellar adenylyl cyclase activity when the enzyme is subsequently assayed in vitro, a stimulation that is specifically blocked by Cd2+. A twofold stimulation is also elicited by the in vitro presentation of soluble cross-linking reagents (antisera and concanavalin A). In contrast, the 10-30-fold stimulation of the flagellar cyclase by in vitro exposure to 40 degrees C, first described by Zhang et al. (1991), is insensitive to Cd2+ but sensitive to such drugs as trifluoperizine and dibucaine. The capacity for twofold stimulation is displayed by the vegetative and gametic enzymes but is lost when gametes fuse to form zygotes; in contrast, the 10-fold stimulation is displayed by the gametic and zygotic enzymes but not the vegetative enzyme. The signal-defective mutant imp-3 fails to generate the normal mating-triggered cAMP production and can be rescued by exogenous dibutyryl cAMP. It displays normal basal rates of flagellar cyclase activity and a normal twofold stimulation by sexual adhesion and by soluble cross-linkers, but it is defective in 40 degrees C activation. The gametic cell-body adenylyl cyclase is stimulated when wild-type flagella, but not imp-3 flagella, undergo adhesive interactions in vivo, and it can be directly stimulated in vitro by cAMP presentation. We propose that the two levels of flagellar cyclase stimulation reflect either sequential steps in the activation of a single cyclase enzyme, with imp-3 blocked in the second step, or else the sequential activation of two different flagellar enzymes, with imp-3 defective in the second enzyme. We further propose that the cell-body enzyme is activated by the cAMP that is generated when flagellar cyclase activity is fully stimulated.

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