CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Feb. 11, 2004) – 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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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is a nonprofit, independent research and educational institution. Wholly independent in its governance, finances and research programs, Whitehead shares a close affiliation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology through its faculty, who hold joint MIT appointments.
Contacts: Kelli Whitlock or David Cameron
Message posted by: Frank S. Zollmann