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Microbiol Rev. 1994 Sep;58(3):330-51.

Developmental decisions in Dictyostelium discoideum.

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Department of Biochemistry, Oxford University, United Kingdom.


A few hours after the onset of starvation, amoebae of Dictyostelium discoideum start to form multicellular aggregates by chemotaxis to centers that emit periodic cyclic AMP signals. There are two major developmental decisions: first, the aggregates either construct fruiting bodies directly, in a process known as culmination, or they migrate for a period as "slugs." Second, the amoebae differentiate into either prestalk or prespore cells. These are at first randomly distributed within aggregates and then sort out from each other to form polarized structures with the prestalk cells at the apex, before eventually maturing into the stalk cells and spores of fruiting bodies. Developmental gene expression seems to be driven primarily by cyclic AMP signaling between cells, and this review summarizes what is known of the cyclic AMP-based signaling mechanism and of the signal transduction pathways leading from cell surface cyclic AMP receptors to gene expression. Current understanding of the factors controlling the two major developmental choices is emphasized. The weak base ammonia appears to play a key role in preventing culmination by inhibiting activation of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase, whereas the prestalk cell-inducing factor DIF-1 is central to the choice of cell differentiation pathway. The mode of action of DIF-1 and of ammonia in the developmental choices is discussed.

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