Yeast cells with the mdm2 mutation display temperature-sensitive growth and defective intracellular mitochondrial movement at the non-permissive temperature. The latter phenotype includes both an absence of mitochondrial transfer into daughter buds of mitotically growing cells and an aberrant mitochondrial distribution in cells exposed to mating pheromone. The wild-type MDM2 gene was cloned by complementation, and DNA sequence analysis revealed a large open reading frame encoding a putative protein of 58.4 kD. The predicted protein sequence is identical to that reported for the yeast OLE1 gene encoding fatty acid desaturase. Unsaturated fatty acid levels are substantially decreased in mdm2 cells after a prolonged incubation at the non-permissive temperature. The addition of oleic acid complements the temperature-sensitive growth and mitochondrial distribution defects of the mutant cells. These results indicate that mdm2 is a temperature-sensitive allele of OLE1 and demonstrate an essential role for unsaturated fatty acids in mitochondrial movement and inheritance.

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