Mating type and mating strategies in Neurospora

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Abstract

In the heterothallic species Neurospora crassa, strains of opposite mating type, A and a, must interact to give the series of events resulting in fruiting body formation, meiosis, and the generation of dormant ascospores. The mating type of a strain is specified by the DNA sequence it carries in the mating type region; strains that are otherwise isogenic can mate and produce ascospores. The DNA of the A and a regions have completely dissimilar sequences. Probing DNA from strains of each mating type with labelled sequences from the A and the a regions has shown that, unlike in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, only a single copy of a mating type sequence is present in a haploid genome. The failure to switch is explainable by the physical absence of DNA sequences characteristic of the opposite mating type. While the mating type sequences must be of the opposite kind for mating to occur in the sexual cycle, two strains of opposite mating type cannot form a stable heterokaryon during vegetative growth; instead, they fuse abortively to give a heterokaryon incompatibility reaction, which results in death of the cells along the fusion line. The DNA sequences responsible for this reaction are coextensive with those sequences in the A and a regions which are necessary to initiate fruiting body formation. The genus Neurospora also includes homothallic species – ones in which a single haploid nucleus carries all the information necessary to form fruiting bodies, undergo meiosis, and produce new haploid spores. One such species, N. terricola, contains one copy each of the A and the a sequences within each haploid genome. Another homothallic species, N. africana, contains a single copy of the A sequence in the haploid genome, but does not contain any sequences corresponding to the a sequence. We present a model for the role of the mating type-specific sequences in heterothallic and homothallic species of Neurospora and we speculate on the origin of the different modes of reproduction in the genus Neurospora.

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