The post-cytokinetic separation of cells in cell-walled organisms involves enzymic processes that degrade a specific layer of the division septum and the region of the mother cell wall that edges the septum. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the 1, 3-α-glucanase Agn1p, originally identified as a mutanase-like glycoside hydrolase family 71 (GH71) enzyme, dissolves the mother cell wall around the septum edge. Our search in the genomes of completely sequenced fungi identified GH71 hydrolases in Basidiomycota, Taphrinomycotina and Pezizomycotina, but not in Saccharomycotina. The most likely Agn1p orthologues in Pezizomycotina species are not mutanases having mutanase-binding domains, but experimentally non-characterized hypothetical proteins that have no carbohydrate-binding domains. The analysis of the GH71 domains corroborated the phylogenetic relationships of the Schizosaccharomyces species determined by previous studies, but suggested a closer relationship to the Basidiomycota proteins than to the Ascomycota proteins. In the Schizosaccharomyces genus, the Agn1p proteins are structurally conserved: their GH71 domains are flanked by N-terminal secretion signals and C-terminal sequences containing the conserved block YNFNAY/HTG. The inactivation of the agn1Sj gene in Schizosaccharomyces japonicus, the only true dimorphic member of the genus, caused a severe cell-separation defect in its yeast phase, but had no effect on the hyphal growth and yeast-to-mycelium transition. It did not affect the mycelium-to-yeast transition either, only delaying the separation of the yeast cells arising from the fragmenting hyphae. The heterologous expression of agn1Sj partially rescued the separation defect of the agn1Δ cells of Schizosaccharomyces pombe. The results presented indicate that the fission yeast Agn1p 1, 3-α-glucanases of Schizosaccharomyces japonicus and Schizosaccharomyces pombe share conserved functions in the yeast phase.
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