The progression of meiosis is controlled by a number of gene-expression systems in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. A forkhead-type transcription factor Mei4 activates a number of genes essential for progression from the middle to late stages of meiosis, which include meiosis I, meiosis II and sporulation. The mei4-deletion mutant (mei4Δ) arrests after meiotic prophase and does not enter meiosis I. To further analyse the Mei4 function, we isolated novel temperature-sensitive mei4 alleles. The two alleles isolated in the initial screen turned out to contain a substitution at N136 in the forkhead DNA-binding domain. Among site-directed mutants that carried a point mutation at this position, the mei4-N136A mutant showed the most severe temperature sensitivity. The mei4-N136A mutant arrested before meiosis I at the restrictive temperature, as did the mei4Δ mutant. In fission yeast, the telomeres are clustered at the spindle pole body (SPB) in meiotic prophase and disperse from it at the onset of meiosis I. The mei4Δ mutant was found to arrest with its telomeres clustered at the SPB, demonstrating a role for Mei4 in telomere dispersion. The mei4-N136A mutant also arrested with clustered telomeres at the restrictive temperature, and the clustering was synchronously resolved after a temperature down-shift, indicating that mei4-N136A is a reversible allele. Hence, the mei4-N136A mutant will be a unique tool to synchronize the meiotic cell cycle from meiosis I onwards and may facilitate analyses of cellular activities occurring during meiosis I.
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