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Identification and characterization of LFD1, a novel protein involved in membrane merger during cell fusion in Neurospora crassa.


Despite its essential role in development, molecular mechanisms of membrane merger during cell-cell fusion in most eukaryotic organisms remain elusive. In the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, cell fusion occurs during asexual spore germination, where genetically identical germlings show chemotropic interactions and cell-cell fusion. Fusion of germlings and hyphae is required for the formation of the interconnected mycelial network characteristic of filamentous fungi. Previously, a multipass membrane protein, PRM1, was characterized and acts at the step of bilayer fusion in N. crassa. Here we describe the identification and characterization of lfd-1, encoding a single pass transmembrane protein, which is also involved in membrane merger. lfd-1 was identified by a targeted analysis of a transcriptional profile of a transcription factor mutant (Δpp-1) defective in germling fusion. The Δlfd-1 mutant shows a similar, but less severe, membrane merger defect as a ΔPrm1 mutant. By genetic analyses, we show that LFD1 and PRM1 act independently, but share a redundant function. The cell fusion frequency of both Δlfd-1 and ΔPrm1 mutants was sensitive to extracellular calcium concentration and was associated with an increase in cell lysis, which was suppressed by a calcium-dependent mechanism involving a homologue to synaptotagmin.

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