Cell polarization involves specifying an area on the cell surface and organizing the cytoskeleton towards that landmark. The mechanisms by which external signals are translated into internal landmarks for polarization are poorly understood. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibits polarized growth during mating: the actin cytoskeleton of each cell polarizes towards its partner, presumably to allow efficient cell fusion. The external signal which determines the landmark for polarization is thought to be a gradient of peptide pheromone released by the mating partner. Here we described mutants that exhibit random polarization. Using two assays, including a direct microscope assay for orientation (Segall, J. 1993. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 90:8332-8337), we show that these mutants cannot locate the source of a pheromone gradient although they are able to organize their cytoskeleton. These mutants appear to be defective in mating because they are unable to locate the mating partner. They carry mutations of the FAR1 gene, denoted far1-s, and identify a new function for the Far1 protein. Its other known function is to promote cell cycle arrest during mating by inhibiting a cyclin-dependent kinase (Peter, M., and I. Herskowitz. 1994. Science (Wash. DC). 265:1228-1232). The far1-s mutants exhibit normal cell cycle arrest in response to pheromone, which suggests that Far1 protein plays two distinct roles in mating: one in cell cycle arrest and the other in orientation towards the mating partner.

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