The Evolution of Aggregative Multicellularity and Cell-Cell Communication in the Dictyostelia

J Mol Biol. 2015 Nov 20;427(23):3722-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2015.08.008. Epub 2015 Aug 15.


Aggregative multicellularity, resulting in formation of a spore-bearing fruiting body, evolved at least six times independently amongst both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Amongst eukaryotes, this form of multicellularity is mainly studied in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. In this review, we summarise trends in the evolution of cell-type specialisation and behavioural complexity in the four major groups of Dictyostelia. We describe the cell-cell communication systems that control the developmental programme of D. discoideum, highlighting the central role of cAMP in the regulation of cell movement and cell differentiation. Comparative genomic studies showed that the proteins involved in cAMP signalling are deeply conserved across Dictyostelia and their unicellular amoebozoan ancestors. Comparative functional analysis revealed that cAMP signalling in D. discoideum originated from a second messenger role in amoebozoan encystation. We highlight some molecular changes in cAMP signalling genes that were responsible for the novel roles of cAMP in multicellular development.

Keywords: cyclic nucleotide; dual component signalling; encystation; evolution of multicellularity; sporulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cyclic AMP / genetics
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Dictyostelium / metabolism
  • Dictyostelium / physiology*
  • Genome, Protozoan
  • Genomics / methods
  • Hexanones / metabolism
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Quorum Sensing
  • Signal Transduction


  • Hexanones
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • 1-((3,5-dichloro)-2,6-dihydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)-1-hexanone
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Protein Kinases
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Cyclic GMP