Yeast’s variety show

February 11, 2004

Tags: Fink LabGenetics + GenomicsProtein Function

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — New research into a family of cell wall proteins shows how yeast can present a variety of “faces” to its environment. In pathogens like yeast, these cell surface proteins regulate how the cell sticks to other cells, interacts with surrounding tissue and evades detection by the immune system. In the disease-causing yeast that affect humans, this type of surface switching could help the yeast seek out new environments and improve its infection skills.

In a paper published this week in the journal Cell, a team of scientists led by Gerald Fink at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research show how yeast taps into a “silent reservoir of variation” to change the expression of proteins on its cell surface. The family of FLO genes provides this reservoir. Most of these genes are silenced, or unexpressed, but the researchers demonstrate that this gene silencing can be switched on and off frequently.


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