Electrical control of cell polarization in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Academic Article uri icon


  • Electric signals surround tissues and cells and have been proposed to participate in directing cell polarity in processes such as development, wound healing, and host invasion [1, 2]. The application of exogenous electric fields (EFs) can direct cell polarization in cell types ranging from bacteria and fungi to neurons and neutrophils [3-7]. The mechanisms by which EFs modulate cell polarity, however, remain poorly understood. Here we introduce the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe as a model organism to elucidate the mechanisms underlying this process. In these rod-shaped cells, an exogenous EF reorients cell growth in a direction orthogonal to the field, producing cells with a bent morphology. A candidate genetic screen identifies conserved factors involved in this process: an integral membrane proton ATPase pma1p that regulates intracellular pH, the small GTPase cdc42p, and the formin for3p that assembles actin cables. Interestingly, mutants in these genes still respond to the EF but orient in a different direction, toward the anode. In addition, EFs also cause electrophoretic movement of cell wall synthase complex proteins toward the anode. These data suggest molecular models for how the EF reorients cell polarization by modulating intracellular pH and steering cell polarity factors in multiple directions.

publication date

  • April 27, 2010