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Universal signals control slime mold stalk formation

Es, S. van., Nieuwenhuijsen, B.W., Lenouvel, F., Deursen, E.M. van., Schaap, P.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1994 v.91 no.17 pp. 8219-8223
genetic transformation, proteins, messenger RNA, ammonia, recombinant DNA, structural genes, beta-glucuronidase, Dictyostelium discoideum, gene expression, histochemistry, reporter genes, cell differentiation, promoter regions
The primitive slime mold Dictyostelium minutum does not display oscillations during aggregation, cannot form migrating slugs, and does not form a prestalk/prespore pattern, all of which are characteristic for development of its advanced relative Dictyostelium discoideum. We used D. minutum to investigate whether slime molds share common mechanisms controlling development. In D. discoideum, the morphogen differentiation inducing factor (DIF) can induce stalk-cell differentiation in vitro. However, stalk formation in vivo is supposedly triggered by local depletion of DIF antagonists such as ammonia or cAMP. A homologue of the D. discoideum stalk gene ecmB was cloned in D. minutum that encodes a 3.4-kb mRNA, and its deduced amino acid sequence shows repeats of 24 amino acids that are characteristic for the D. discoideum ecmB gene. Remarkably, DIF effectively induces expression of the D. minutum ecmB gene and ammonia inhibits its expression. D. discoideum cells were transformed with a construct of the D. minutum ecmB promoter fused to the lacZ reporter gene and showed expression in the stalk, but not in the upper and lower cup of the fruiting body, which also express the D. discoideum ecmB gene. In D. discoideum, the D. minutum ecmB and the ecmB promoter are similarly activated by DIF and repressed by both cAMP and ammonia, suggesting that additional signaling is required for ecmB expression in upper and lower cup cells. Our data indicate that the extracellular signals controlling stalk formation and their intracellular signaling cascades including gene regulatory proteins remained highly conserved during slime mold evolution.