Loss of Cln3 function in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum causes pleiotropic effects that are rescued by human CLN3

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 17;9(10):e110544. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110544. eCollection 2014.


The neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL) are a group of inherited, severe neurodegenerative disorders also known as Batten disease. Juvenile NCL (JNCL) is caused by recessive loss-of-function mutations in CLN3, which encodes a transmembrane protein that regulates endocytic pathway trafficking, though its primary function is not yet known. The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum is increasingly utilized for neurological disease research and is particularly suited for investigation of protein function in trafficking. Therefore, here we establish new overexpression and knockout Dictyostelium cell lines for JNCL research. Dictyostelium Cln3 fused to GFP localized to the contractile vacuole system and to compartments of the endocytic pathway. cln3- cells displayed increased rates of proliferation and an associated reduction in the extracellular levels and cleavage of the autocrine proliferation repressor, AprA. Mid- and late development of cln3- cells was precocious and cln3- slugs displayed increased migration. Expression of either Dictyostelium Cln3 or human CLN3 in cln3- cells suppressed the precocious development and aberrant slug migration, which were also suppressed by calcium chelation. Taken together, our results show that Cln3 is a pleiotropic protein that negatively regulates proliferation and development in Dictyostelium. This new model system, which allows for the study of Cln3 function in both single cells and a multicellular organism, together with the observation that expression of human CLN3 restores abnormalities in Dictyostelium cln3- cells, strongly supports the use of this new model for JNCL research.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Dictyostelium / genetics*
  • Dictyostelium / growth & development
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Genetic Pleiotropy*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Chaperones / genetics*
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Neuronal Ceroid-Lipofuscinoses / genetics*
  • Neuronal Ceroid-Lipofuscinoses / pathology


  • CLN3 protein, human
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Molecular Chaperones