Kar4p is a transcription factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is required for the expression of karyogamy-specific genes during mating, for the efficient transit from G1 during mitosis, and for essential functions during meiosis. Kar4p exists in two forms: a constitutive slower-migrating form, which predominates during vegetative growth, and a faster-migrating form, which is highly induced by mating pheromone. Transcript mapping of KAR4 revealed that the constitutive mRNA was initiated upstream of two in-frame ATG initiation codons, while the major inducible mRNA originated between them. Thus, the two forms of Kar4p are derived from the translation of alternative transcripts, which possess different AUG initiation codons. Site-directed mutations were constructed to inactivate one or the other of the initiation codons, allowing the expression of the two Kar4p forms separately. At normal levels of expression, the constitutive form of Kar4p did not support wild-type levels of mating. However, the two forms of Kar4p could also be expressed separately from the regulatable GAL1 promoter, and no functional difference was detected when they were expressed at equivalent levels. Pulse-chase experiments showed that the induced form of Kar4p was highly expressed and stable during mating but rapidly turned over in vegetative cells. In contrast, the constitutively expressed longer form showed the same rate of turnover regardless of the growth condition. Furthermore, overexpression of either form of Kar4p in vegetative cells was toxic. Thus, the elaborate regulation of the two forms of Kar4p at the levels of transcription, translation, and protein turnover reflects the requirement for high levels of the protein during mating and for low levels during the subsequent phases of the cell cycle.
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