The SEC14SC gene encodes the phosphatidylinositol/phosphatidylcholine transfer protein (PI/PC-TP) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The SEC14SC gene product (SEC14pSC) is associated with the Golgi complex as a peripheral membrane protein and plays an essential role in stimulating Golgi secretory function. We report the characterization of SEC14YL, the structural gene for the PI/PC-TP of the dimorphic yeast Yarrowia lipolytica. SEC14YL encodes a primary translation product (SEC14YL) that is predicted to be a 497-residue polypeptide of which the amino-terminal 300 residues are highly homologous to the entire SEC14pSC, and the carboxyl-terminal 197 residues define a dispensible domain that is not homologous to any known protein. In a manner analogous to the case for SEC14pSC, SEC14pYL localizes to punctate cytoplasmic structures in Y. lipolytica that likely represent Golgi bodies. However, SEC14pYL is neither required for the viability of Y. lipolytica nor is it required for secretory pathway function in this organism. This nonessentiality of SEC14pYL for growth and secretion is probably not the consequence of a second PI/PC-TP activity in Y. lipolytica as cell-free lysates prepared from delta sec14YL strains are devoid of measurable PI/PC-TP activity in vitro. Phenotypic analyses demonstrate that SEC14pYL dysfunction results in the inability of Y. lipolytica to undergo the characteristic dimorphic transition from the yeast to the mycelial form that typifies this species. Rather, delta sec14YL mutants form aberrant pseudomycelial structures as cells enter stationary growth phase. The collective data indicate a role for SEC14pYL in promoting the differentiation of Y. lipolytica cells from yeast to mycelia, and demonstrate that PI/PC-TP function is utilized in diverse ways by different organisms.

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