In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the hetero-trimeric G protein transduces the mating pheromone signal from a cell-surface receptor. Free Gβγ then activates a mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascade. STE50 has been shown to be involved in this pheromone signal-transduction pathway. In this study, we present a functional characterization of Ste50p, a protein that is required to sustain the pheromone-induced signal which leads cells to hormone-induced differentiation. Inactivation of STE50 leads to the attenuation of mating pheromone-induced signal transduction, and overexpression of STE50 intensifies the pheromone-induced signalling. By genetic analysis we have positioned the action of Ste50p downstream of the α-pheromone receptor (STE2), at the level of the heterotrimeric G protein, and upstream of STE5 and the kinase cascade of STE11 and STE7. In a two-hybrid assay Ste50p interacts weakly with the G protein and strongly with the MAPKKK Ste11p. The latter interaction is absent in the constitutive mutant Ste11pP279S. These data show that a new component, Ste50p, determines the extent and the duration of signal transduction by acting between the G protein and the MAP kinase complex in S. cerevisiae.
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