Sexual reproduction requires meiosis to produce haploid gametes, which in turn can fuse to regenerate a diploid organism. We have studied the transcriptional program that drives this developmental process in Schizosaccharomyces pombe using DNA microarrays. Here we show that hundreds of genes are regulated in successive waves of transcription that correlate with major biological events of meiosis and sporulation. Each wave is associated with specific promoter motifs. Clusters of neighboring genes (mostly close to telomeres) are co-expressed early in the process, which reflects a more global control of these genes. We find that two Atf-like transcription factors are essential for the expression of late genes and formation of spores, and identify dozens of potential Atf target genes. Comparison with the meiotic program of the distantly related Saccharomyces cerevisiae reveals an unexpectedly small shared meiotic transcriptome, suggesting that the transcriptional regulation of meiosis evolved independently in both species.
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