A Developmentally Regulated Gene, ASI2, Is Required for Endocycling in the Macronuclear Anlagen of Tetrahymena
Ciliated protozoa contain two types of nuclei, germ line micronuclei (Mic) and transcriptionally active macronuclei (Mac). During sexual reproduction, the parental Mac degenerates and a new Mac develops from a mitotic product of the zygotic Mic. Macronuclear development involves extensive endoreplication of the genome. The present study shows that endoreplication of macronuclear DNA in Tetrahymena is an example of endocyling, a variant of the mitotic cycle with alternating S and G phases in the absence of cell division. Thus, endocycling is conserved from ciliates to multicellular organisms. The gene ASI2 in Tetrahymena thermophila encodes a putative signal transduction receptor. ASI2 is nonessential for vegetative growth, but it is upregulated during development of the new Mac. Cells that lack ASI2 in the developing Mac anlagen are arrested in endoreplication of the DNA and die. This study shows that ASI2 is also transcribed in the parental Mac early in conjugation and that transcription of ASI2 in the parental Mac supports endoreplication of the DNA during early stages of development of the Mac anlagen. Other molecular events in Mac anlage development, including developmentally regulated DNA rearrangement, occur normally in matings between ASI2 knockouts, suggesting that ASI2 specifically regulates endocycling in Tetrahymena.