Using synchronized Dictyostelium discoideum Ax-2 cells and the differential display method, a mitochondrial gene cluster (referred to as differentiation-associated gene 3; dia3) was isolated as one of the genes expressed specifically during the transition of Ax-2 cells from growth to differentiation. The dia3 gene encodes for a mitochondrial protein cluster (NADH dehydrogenase (NAD) subunit 11, 5, ribosomal protein S4 (RPS4), RPS2, and NAD4L). Northern blot analysis using nonsynchronized Ax-2 cells has shown that the dia3 RNA of about 8 kb is scarcely expressed during the vegetative growth phase, and the maximal expression was attained at 2 h after starvation. To analyze the gene function of dia3, we tried inactivation of rps4 by means of homologous recombination and obtained several transformed clones showing mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy. The transformed cells grew normally in nutrient medium, but their development after starvation was greatly impaired, thus resulting in the failure of many cells to differentiate. In this connection, the cAMP receptor 1 (car1) expression, which is one of the earliest markers of differentiation, was found to be markedly reduced in the rps4-inactivated cells.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.