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Development. 2002 May;129(10):2381-9.

A novel disintegrin domain protein affects early cell type specification and pattern formation in Dictyostelium.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.


The cellular slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum is a non-metazoan organism, yet we now demonstrate that a disintegrin domain-containing protein, the product of the ampA gene, plays a role in cell type specification. Disintegrin domain-containing proteins are involved in Notch signaling in Drosophila and C. elegans via an ectodomain shedding mechanism that depends on a metalloprotease domain. The Dictyostelium protein lacks a metalloprotease domain. Nonetheless, analysis of cell type specific reporter gene expression during development of the ampA null strain identifies patterning defects that define two distinct roles for the AmpA protein in specifying cell fate. In the absence of a functional ampA gene, cells prematurely specify as prespore cells. Prestalk cell differentiation and migration are delayed. Both of these defects can be rescued by the inclusion of 10% wild-type cells in the developing null mutant aggregates, indicating that the defect is non-cell autonomous. The ampA gene is also demonstrated to be necessary in a cell-autonomous manner for the correct localization of anterior-like cells to the upper cup of the fruiting body. When derived from ampA null cells, the anterior-like cells are unable to localize to positions in the interior of the developing mounds. Wild-type cells can rescue defects in morphogenesis by substituting for null cells when they differentiate as anterior-like cells, but they cannot rescue the ability of ampA null cells to fill this role. Thus, in spite of its simpler structure, the Dictyostelium ampA protein carries out the same diversity of functions that have been observed for the ADAM and ADAMTS families in metazoans.

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