Molecular population genetics and evolution of a prion-like protein in saccharomyces cerevisiae

Mark A. Jensen, Heather L. True, Yury O. Chernoff, Susan Lindquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The prion-like behavior of Sup35p, the eRF3 homolog in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, mediates the activity of the cytoplasmic nonsense suppressor known as [PSI+]. Sup35p is divided into three regions of distinct function. The N-terminal and middle (M) regions are required for the induction and propagation of [PSI+] but are not necessary for translation termination or cell viability. The C-terminal region encompasses the termination function. The existence of the N-terminal region in SUP35 homologs of other fungi has led some to suggest that this region has an adaptive function separate from translation termination. To examine this hypothesis, we sequenced portions of SUP35 in 21 strains of S. cerevisiae, including 13 clinical isolates. We analyzed nucleotide polymorphism within this species and compared it to sequence divergence from a sister species, S. paradoxus. The N domain of Sup35p is highly conserved in amino acid sequence and is highly biased in codon usage toward preferred codons. Amino acid changes are under weak purifying selection based on a quantitative analysis of polymorphism and divergence. We also conclude that the clinical strains of S. cerevisiae are not recently derived and that outcrossing between strains in S. cerevisiae may be relatively rare in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-535
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


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