In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, sexual conjugation between haploid cells of opposite mating type results in the formation of a diploid zygote. When treated with fluorescently labeled concanavalin A, a zygote stains nonuniformly, with the greatest fluorescence occurring at the conjugation bridge between the two haploid parents. In the mating mixture, unconjugated haploid cells often elongate to pear-shaped forms ("shmoos") which likewise exhibit asymmetric staining with the most intense fluorescence at the growing end. Shmoo formation can be induced in cells of one mating type by the addition of a hormone secreted by cells of the opposite mating type; such shmoos also stain asymmetrically. In nearly all cases, the nonmating mutants that were examined stained uniformly after incubation with the appropriate hormone. Asymmetric staining is not observed with vegetative cells, even those that are budded. These results suggest that, before and during conjugation, localized cell surface changes occur in cells of both mating types; the surface alterations facilitate fusion and are apparently mediated by the hormones in a manner that is mating-type specific.

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