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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Bistability and hysteresis of the 'Secteur' differentiation are controlled by a two-gene locus in Nectria haematococca

Stéphane Graziani, Philippe Silar and Marie-Josée Daboussi*

Author Affiliations

Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie, UMR CNRS 8621, Bât 400 Université Paris-Sud, 15 rue George Clemenceau, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France

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BMC Biology 2004, 2:18  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-2-18

Published: 16 August 2004



Bistability and hysteresis are increasingly recognized as major properties of regulatory networks governing numerous biological phenomena, such as differentiation and cell cycle progression. The full scope of the underlying molecular mechanisms leading to bistability and hysteresis remains elusive. Nectria haemaotcocca, a saprophytic or pathogenic fungus with sexual reproduction, exhibits a bistable morphological modification characterized by a reduced growth rate and an intense pigmentation. Bistability is triggered by the presence or absence of σ, a cytoplasmic determinant. This determinant spreads in an infectious manner in the hyphae of the growing margin, insuring hysteresis of the differentiation.


Seven mutants specifically affected in the generation of σ were selected through two different screening strategies. The s1 and s2 mutations completely abolish the generation of σ and of its morphological expression, the Secteur. The remaining five mutations promote its constitutive generation, which determines an intense pigmentation but not growth alteration. The seven mutations map at the same locus, Ses (for 'Secteur-specific'). The s2 mutant was obtained by an insertional mutagenesis strategy, which permitted the cloning of the Ses locus. Sequence and transcription analysis reveals that Ses is composed of two closely linked genes, SesA, mutated in the s1 and s2 mutant strains, and SesB, mutated in the s* mutant strains. SesB shares sequence similarity with animal and fungal putative proteins, with potential esterase/lipase/thioesterase activity, whereas SesA is similar to proteins of unknown function present only in the filamentous fungi Fusarium graminearum and Podospora anserina.


The cloning of Ses provides evidence that a system encoded by two linked genes directs a bistable and hysteretic switch in a eukaryote. Atypical regulatory relations between the two proteins may account for the hysteresis of Secteur differentiation.