Human ERK1 induces filamentous growth and cell wall remodeling pathways in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Josephine M. Atienza, Michael Suh, Ioannis Xenarios, Ralf Landgraf, John Colicelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Expression of an activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) construct in yeast cells was used to examine the conservation of function among mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. Sequence alignment of the human MAP kinase ERK1 with all Saccharomyces cerevisiae kinases reveals a particularly strong kinship with Kss1p (invasive growth promoting MAP kinase), Fus3p (pheromone response MAP/ERK kinase), and Mpk1p (cell wall remodeling MAP kinase). A fusion protein of constitutively active human MAP/ERK kinase 1 (MEK) and human ERK1 was introduced under regulated expression into yeast cells. The fusion protein (MEK/ERK) induced a filamentation response element promoter and led to a growth retardation effect concomitant with a morphological change resulting in elongated cells, bipolar budding, and multicell chains. Induction of filamentous growth was also observed for diploid cells following MEK/ERK expression in liquid culture. Neither haploids nor diploids, however, showed marked penetration of agar medium. These effects could be triggered by either moderate MEK/ERK expression at 37 °C or by high level MEK/ERK expression at 30 °C. The combination of high level MEK/ERK expression and 37 °C resulted in cell death. The deleterious effects of MEK/ERK expression and high temperature were significantly mitigated by 1 M sorbitol, which also enhanced the filamentous phenotype. MEK/ERK was able to constitutively activate a cell wall maintenance reporter gene, suggesting misregulation of this pathway. In contrast, MEK/ERK effectively blocked expression from a pheromone-responsive element promoter and inhibited mating. These results are consistent with MEK/ERK promoting filamentous growth and altering the cell wall through its ability to partially mimic Kss1p and stimulate a pathway normally controlled by Mpk1p, while appearing to inhibit the normal functioning of the structurally related yeast MAP kinase Fus3p.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20638-20646
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 7 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Human ERK1 induces filamentous growth and cell wall remodeling pathways in Saccharomyces cerevisiae'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this