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PLoS One. 2007 Feb 14;2(2):e212.

Exploitation of other social amoebae by Dictyostelium caveatum.

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Living Matter Laboratory, Center for Physics and Biology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York, United States of America.


Dictyostelium amoebae faced with starvation trigger a developmental program during which many cells aggregate and form fruiting bodies that consist of a ball of spores held aloft by a thin stalk. This developmental strategy is open to several forms of exploitation, including the remarkable case of Dictyostelium caveatum, which, even when it constitutes 1/10(3) of the cells in an aggregate, can inhibit the development of the host and eventually devour it. We show that it accomplishes this feat by inhibiting a region of cells, called the tip, which organizes the development of the aggregate into a fruiting body. We use live-cell microscopy to define the D. caveatum developmental cycle and to show that D. caveatum amoebae have the capacity to ingest amoebae of other Dictyostelid species, but do not attack each other. The block in development induced by D. caveatum does not affect the expression of specific markers of prespore cell or prestalk cell differentiation, but does stop the coordinated cell movement leading to tip formation. The inhibition mechanism involves the constitutive secretion of a small molecule by D. caveatum and is reversible. Four Dictyostelid species were inhibited in their development, while D. caveatum is not inhibited by its own compound(s). D. caveatum has evolved a predation strategy to exploit other members of its genus, including mechanisms of developmental inhibition and specific phagocytosis.

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