Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens 30602 U.S.A.
Proteins involved in the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway controlling mating, morphogenesis, and pathogenicity have been identified previously in the fungus Ustilago maydis. One of these, the Ubc2 adaptor protein, possesses a basidiomycete-specific structure. In addition to containing sterile α motif (SAM) and ras association (RA) domains typical of Ste50-like adaptor proteins found in the fungal phylum Ascomycota, Ubc2 also contains two C-terminal SH3 domains. Yeast two-hybrid assays indicated that Ubc2 interacts with the MAP kinase-kinase kinase Ubc4 via the SAM domains at each of their respective N-termini. Site-directed mutagenesis of ubc2 and complementation analyses revealed that the SAM and RA domains of Ubc2 are essential for filamentous growth. These data support a role for the ascomycete-like N-terminus of Ubc2 in regulating pheromone-responsive mating and morphogenesis analogous to the role of Ste50p in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In contrast, C-terminal deletion mutants were fully capable of filamentous growth and mating. However, surprisingly, these strains were nonpathogenic. Further, directed mutagenesis of the C-terminus revealed that both SH3 domains are required for pathogenicity. These results suggest that the Basidiomycota have retained the mating and morphogenetic functions of Ste50-type proteins in the N-terminal half of their Ubc2-type adaptors but, additionally, have integrated C-terminal SH3 domains that are critical for additional signal transduction mechanisms, including those that lead to pathogenesis.
Additional keywords:dimorphism, Ras.