The fission yeast Sty1 MAP kinase is required for cell cycle control, initiation of sexual differentiation, and protection against cellular stress. Like the mammalian JNK/SAPK and p38/CSBP1 MAP kinases, Sty1 is activated by a range of environmental insults including osmotic stress, hydrogen peroxide, menadione, heat shock, and the protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin. We have identified an upstream regulator that mediates activation of the Sty1 MAP kinase by multiple environmental stresses as the product of the mitotic catastrophe suppressor, mcs4. Mcs4 is structurally and functionally homologous to the budding yeast SSK1 response regulator, suggesting that the eukaryotic stress-activated MAP kinase pathway is controlled by a conserved two-component system. Mcs4 acts upstream of Wak1, a homolog of the SSK2 and SSK22 MEK kinases, which transmits the stress signal to the Wis1 MEK. We show that the Wis1 MEK is controlled by an additional pathway that is independent of both Mcs4 and the Wak1 MEK kinase. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Mcs4 is required for the correct timing of mitotic initiation by mechanisms both dependent and independent on Sty1, indicating that Mcs4 coordinately controls cell cycle progression with the cellular response to environmental stress.
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