Integration of signaling networks that regulate Dictyostelium differentiation

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 1999;15:469-517. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.15.1.469.


In Dictyostelium amoebae, cell-type differentiation, spatial patterning, and morphogenesis are controlled by a combination of cell-autonomous mechanisms and intercellular signaling. A chemotactic aggregation of approximately 10(5) cells leads to the formation of a multicellular organism. Cell-type differentiation and cell sorting result in a small number of defined cell types organized along an anteroposterior axis. Finally, a mature fruiting body is created by the terminal differentiation of stalk and spore cells. Analysis of the regulatory program demonstrates a role for several molecules, including GSK-3, signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) factors, and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), that control spatial patterning in metazoans. Unexpectedly, two component systems containing histidine kinases and response regulators also play essential roles in controlling Dictyostelium development. This review focuses on the role of cAMP, which functions intracellularly to mediate the activity of PKA, an essential component in aggregation, cell-type specification, and terminal differentiation. Cytoplasmic cAMP levels are controlled through both the regulated activation of adenylyl cyclases and the degradation by a phosphodiesterase containing a two-component system response regulator. Extracellular cAMP regulates G-protein-dependent and -independent pathways to control aggregation as well as the activity of GSK-3 and the transcription factors GBF and STATa during multicellular development. The integration of these pathways with others regulated by the morphogen DIF-1 to control cell fate decisions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dictyostelium / growth & development*
  • Dictyostelium / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*