1996 Volume 21 Issue 5 Pages 431-436
The fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe initiates sexual development under starved conditions. Nutritional starvation decreases the level of intracellular cAMP. This decrease induces expression of the stell gene, which encodes a key transcription factor for genes required for mating and meiosis. Mutational analyses of S. pombe genes encoding components of the cAMP cascade have shown that S. pombe cells stay in the mitotic cell cycle as long as the level of cAMP-dependent protein kinase activity is high, but are committed to mating and meiosis if this activity is lowered. To initiate meiosis in S. pombe, a protein kinase encoded by pat1 (also called ran1) should be inactivated. This inactivation results from deprivation of nutrients via a cascade of expression of genes including ste11. The mei2 gene encodes a factor indispensable for the initiation of meiosis, and its expression is regulated directly by Ste11. If Pat1 kinase is intact, it blocks Mei2 function. Mei2 is required at two distinct stages of meiosis, once prior to premeiotic DNA synthesis and then prior to the first meiotic division (meiosis I). Mei2 is an RNA-binding protein, and forms a complex with a specific RNA species to promote meiosis I. This RNA species, named meiRNA, is polyadenylated but is unlikely to encode a protein product. It is essential for meiosis I, but not for either cell growth or premeiotic DNA synthesis. These observations unequivocally demonstrate that RNA plays a critical role in the control of meiosis.