Though early stages of yeast conjugation are well-mimicked by treatment with pheromones, the final degradation of the cell wall and membrane fusion of mating that leads to cytoplasmic mixing may require separate signals. Mutations that blocked cell fusion during mating in Saccharomyces cerevisiae were identified in a multipartite screen. The three tightest mutations proved to be partial-function alleles of the ABC-transporter gene STE6 required for transport of a-factor. The ste6(cefl-1) allele was recovered and sequenced. The ste6(cefl-1) allele contained a stop codon predicted to truncate Ste6 at amino acid residue 862 (of 1290). The ste6(cef) mutations reduced, but did not eliminate, expression of a-factor. Light and electron microscopy revealed that unlike ste6 null mutations which block mating before the formation of mating pairs, the ste6(cef) (cell fusion) alleles permitted early steps in mating to proceed normally but blocked at a late stage in conjugation where mating partners were encased by a single cell wall and separated by only a thin layer of cell wall material we term the fusion wall. Morphologically the prezygotes appeared symmetrical with successful cell wall fusion at the periphery of the region of cell contact. Responses to a-factor were efficiently induced in partner cells under mating conditions as expected given the symmetric appearance of the prezygotes. A strain expressing a ste6(K1093A) mutation that conferred export of a twofold to fourfold higher level of a-factor than ste6(cef) did not accumulate prezygotes during mating which could indicate a tight threshold of a-factor signaling required for mating. However, mating to an sst2 partner which has a greatly increased sensitivity to a-factor did not suppress the fusion defect of a ste6(cef) strain. Overexpression of the structural gene for a-factor also did not suppress the fusion defect. It is possible that a-factor or STE6 play more complex roles in cell fusion.

This content is only available as a PDF.