Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

You had me at hello: Frisky yeast know who to 'shmoo' after two minutes

Date:
April 19, 2010
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Yeast cells decide whether to have sex with each other within two minutes of meeting, according to new research. One of the authors of the study says the new insights into how yeast cells decide to mate could be helpful for researchers looking at how cancer cells and stem cells develop.

Yeast cells decide whether to have sex with each other within two minutes of meeting, according to new research published April 18 in Nature. One of the authors of the study, from Imperial College London, says the new insights into how yeast cells decide to mate could be helpful for researchers looking at how cancer cells and stem cells develop.

Yeasts are single-celled microbes that scientists often use as model organisms, to help them understand how cells work. They usually reproduce asexually, by a process called budding, where a part of the cell is pinched off and becomes a new cell, identical to the original.

Sometimes, yeast cells reproduce sexually, by mating. The mating process involves one cell of each sex joining together, then mixing their DNA and splitting apart again. To do this, the cells each have to produce a nodule that they can join together, called a shmoo. The process of shmooing takes around two hours.

In the new study, researchers from Imperial College London, Université de Montréal, McGill University and the University of Edinburgh determined that a yeast cell's decision to mate is controlled by a chemical change on a single protein. This change occurs two minutes after the cell detects a pheromone produced by the opposite sex, meaning that the decision to mate occurs much more quickly than scientists previously thought.

The researchers also found that in order for the mating process to be switched on, the pheromone must reach a critical concentration in the environment around the yeast cell. Below this concentration, the yeast cell continues to reproduce asexually.

"Shmooing is a very energy-intensive process for yeast cells. We think this switching process at a certain pheromone concentration may have evolved to make sure the cells only get prepared for sexual reproduction if a mate is sufficiently close enough and able to mate," said Dr Vahid Shahrezaei, one of the authors of the study from the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London.

The researchers used a highly complex mathematical model to determine what switches the mating process on and off, factoring in experimental data about the concentration of pheromones around the cell, the concentrations of different proteins relevant to mating inside the cell and how strongly these proteins bind together.

They believe their mathematical model can potentially be used to investigate the triggers that cause changes in other cells, such as stem cells becoming heart or bone cells, or normal cells becoming cancerous. This is because mammalian cells and yeast cells contain many of the same proteins, which work together in a chain reaction to trigger a decision in the cell. Therefore, this new model could ultimately help researchers to develop new drugs and therapies.

Dr Shahrezaei said: "Yeast cells live in a very noisy environment -- they are surrounded by different chemicals, including pheromones and food, and their own machinery inside the cell produces lots of biomolecules that interact with each other. We wanted to see how cells make sense of this noisy environment and work out what is happening, at a molecular level, to make a important decision like mating.

"By combining experiments and mathematical modelling that take lots of different factors into consideration, we have been able to show exactly what is happening inside a yeast cell to make it decide whether to mate with another cell. We also showed that the mechanism that leads the cells to make their decision is very robust, meaning it is not affected by molecular noise in the environment," added Dr Shahrezaei.

"Although yeast is dramatically different from people, at a molecular and cellular level we have a lot in common," said senior author Dr Stephen Michnick, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics. "The same molecules that create the switching decision in yeast are found in very similar forms in human cells. Similar switching decisions to those made by yeast are made by stem cells during embryonic development and become dysfunctional in cancers."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Malleshaiah et al. The scaffold protein Ste5 directly controls a switch-like mating decision in yeast. Nature, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nature08946

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "You had me at hello: Frisky yeast know who to 'shmoo' after two minutes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100418155444.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2010, April 19). You had me at hello: Frisky yeast know who to 'shmoo' after two minutes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100418155444.htm
Imperial College London. "You had me at hello: Frisky yeast know who to 'shmoo' after two minutes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100418155444.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) — The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins