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Bioessays. 2000 Jul;22(7):603-15.

The molecular genetics of chemotaxis: sensing and responding to chemoattractant gradients.

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Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, Division of Biology, Center for Molecular Genetics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0634, USA.


Chemotaxis plays a central role in various biological processes, such as the movement of neutrophils and macrophage during wound healing and in the aggregation of Dictyostelium cells. During the past few years, new understanding of the mechanisms controlling chemotaxis has been obtained through molecular genetic and biochemical studies of Dictyostelium and other experimental systems. This review outlines our present understanding of the signaling pathways that allow a cell to sense and respond to a chemoattractant gradient. In response to chemoattractants, cells either become polarized in the direction of the chemoattractant source, which results in the formation of a leading edge, or they reorient their polarity in the direction of the chemoattractant gradient and move with a stronger persistence up the gradient. Models are presented here to explain such directional responses. They include a localized activation of pathways at the leading edge and an "inhibition" of these pathways along the lateral edges of the cell. One of the primary pathways that may be responsible for such localized responses is the activation of phosphatidyl inositol-3 kinase (PI3K). Evidence suggests that a localized formation of binding sites for PH (pleckstrin homology) domain-containing proteins produced by PI3K leads to the formation of "activation domains" at the leading edge, producing a localized response.

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