Rapamycin specifically interferes with the developmental response of fission yeast to starvation

R. Weisman, M. Choder, Y. Koltin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapamycin is a microbial macrolide which belongs to a family of immunosuppressive drugs that suppress the immune system by blocking stages of signal transduction in T lymphocytes. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells, as in T lymphocytes, rapamycin inhibits growth and cells become arrested at the G1 stage of the cell cycle. Rapamycin is also an effective antifungal agent, affecting the growth of yeast and filamentous fungi. Unexpectedly, we observed that rapamycin has no apparent effect on the vegetative growth of Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Instead, the drug becomes effective only when cells experience starvation. Under such conditions, homothallic wild-type cells will normally mate and undergo sporulation. In the presence of rapamycin, this sexual development process is strongly inhibited and cells adopt an alternative physiological option and enter stationary phase. Rapamycin strongly inhibits sexual development of haploid cells prior to the stage of sexual conjugation. In contrast, the drug has only a slight inhibitory effect on the sporulation of diploid cells. A genetic approach was applied to identify the signal transduction pathway that is inhibited by rapamycin. The results indicate that either rapamycin did not suppress the derepression of sexual development of strains in which adenylate cyclase was deleted or the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase encoded by pka1 was mutated. Nor did rapamycin inhibit the unscheduled meiosis observed in pat1- 114 mutants. Overexpression of ras1+, an essential gene for sexual development, did not rescue the sterility of rapamycin-treated cells. However, expression of the activated allele, rus1Val17, antagonized the effect of rapamycin and restored the ability of the cells to respond to mating signals in the presence of the drug. We discuss possible mechanisms for the inhibitory effect of rapamycin on sexual development in S. pombe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6325-6334
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


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