The nucleomorphin gene numA1 from Dictyostelium codes for a multi-domain, calmodulin binding protein that regulates nuclear number. To gain insight into the regulation of numA, we assessed the effects of the stalk cell differentiation inducing factor-1 (DIF-1), an extracellular signalling molecule, on the expression of numA1 RNA and protein. For comparison, the extracellular signalling molecules cAMP (mediates chemotaxis, prestalk and prespore differentiation) and ammonia (NH(3)/NH(4)(+); antagonizes DIF) were also studied. Starvation, which is a signal for multicellular development, results in a greater than 80% decrease in numA1 mRNA expression within 4 h. Treatment with ammonium chloride led to a greater than 90% inhibition of numA1 RNA expression within 2 h. In contrast, the addition of DIF-1 completely blocked the decrease in numA1 gene expression caused by starvation. Treatment of vegetative cells with cAMP led to decreases in numA1 RNA expression that were equivalent to those seen with starvation. Western blotting after various morphogen treatments showed that the maintenance of vegetative levels of numA1 RNA by DIF-1 in starved cells was reflected in significantly increased numA1 protein levels. Treatment with cAMP and/or ammonia led to decreased protein expression and each of these morphogens suppressed the stimulatory effects of DIF-1. Protein expression levels of CBP4a, a calcium-dependent binding partner of numA1, were regulated in the same manner as numA1 suggesting this potential co-regulation may be related to their functional relationship. NumA1 is the first calmodulin binding protein shown to be regulated by developmental morphogens in Dictyostelium being upregulated by DIF-1 and down-regulated by cAMP and ammonia.