Ammonia Signaling in Yeast Colony Formation

Int Rev Cytol. 2003;225:229-72. doi: 10.1016/s0074-7696(05)25006-4.


Multicellular structures formed by microorganisms possess various properties, which make them interesting in terms of processes that occur in tissues of higher eukaryotes. These include processes important for morphogenesis and development of multicellular structures as well as those evoked by stress, starvation, and aging. Investigation of colonies created by simple nonmotile yeast cells revealed the existence of various regulators involved in their development. One of the identified signaling compounds, unprotonated volatile ammonia, is produced by colonies in pulses and seems to represent a long-distance signal notifying the colony population of incoming nutrient starvation. This alarm evokes changes in colonies that are important for their long-term survival. Models of the action of ammonia on yeast cells as well as the routes of its production are proposed. Interestingly, ammonia/ammonium also act as a signaling molecule in other organisms. Ammonia regulates several steps of the multicellular development of Dictyostelium discoideum and evidence indicates that ammonia/ammonium plays a role in neural tissues of higher eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Ammonia / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Dictyostelium / cytology
  • Dictyostelium / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Starvation / metabolism
  • Starvation / physiopathology
  • Yeasts / cytology
  • Yeasts / metabolism*


  • Ammonia