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Probing Yeast Polarity with Acute, Reversible, Optogenetic Inhibition of Protein Function

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posted on 16.10.2015, 00:00 by Anna Payne-Tobin Jost, Orion D. Weiner
We recently developed a technique for rapidly and reversibly inhibiting protein function through light-inducible sequestration of proteins away from their normal sites of action. Here, we adapt this method for inducible inactivation of Bem1, a scaffold protein involved in budding yeast polarity. We find that acute inhibition of Bem1 produces profound defects in cell polarization and cell viability that are not observed in bem1Δ. By disrupting Bem1 activity at specific points in the cell cycle, we demonstrate that Bem1 is essential for the establishment of polarity and bud emergence but is dispensable for the growth of an emerged bud. By taking advantage of the reversibility of Bem1 inactivation, we show that pole size scales with cell size, and that this scaling is dependent on the actin cytoskeleton. Our experiments reveal how rapid reversible inactivation of protein function complements traditional genetic approaches. This strategy should be widely applicable to other biological contexts.