Cell motility and chemotaxis in Dictyostelium amebae lacking myosin heavy chain

Dev Biol. 1988 Jul;128(1):164-77. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(88)90279-5.


Dictyostelium amebae have been engineered by homologous recombination of a truncated copy of the myosin heavy chain gene (heavy meromyosin (HMM) cells) and by transformation with a vector encoding an antisense RNA to myosin heavy chain mRNA (mhcA cells) so that they lack native myosin heavy chain protein. In the former case, cells synthesize only the heavy meromyosin portion of the protein and in the latter case they synthesize negligible amounts of the protein. Surprisingly, it was demonstrated that both cell lines are viable and motile. In order to compare the motility of these cells with normal cells, the newly developed computer-assisted Dynamic Morphology System (DMS) was employed. The results demonstrate that the average HMM or mhcA ameba moves at a rate of translocation less than half that of normal cells. It is rounder and less polar than a normal cell, and exhibits a rate of cytoplasmic expansion and contraction roughly half that of normal cells. In a spatial gradient of cAMP, the average ameba of HMM or mhcA exhibits a chemotactic index of +0.10 or less, compared to the chemotactic index of +0.50 exhibited by normal cells. Finally, the initial area, rate of expansion, and final area of pseudopods are roughly half that of normal cells. The five fastest HMM amebae (out of 35 analyzed in detail) moved at an average rate of translocation equal to that of normal amebae, and exhibited an average chemotactic index of +0.34. In addition, the average rate of cytoplasmic flow in fast HMM cells was equal to that of the average normal ameba. However, fast HMM amebae still exhibited the same defects in pseudopod formation that were exhibited by the entire HMM cell population. These results suggest that myosin heavy chain is involved in the "fine tuning" and efficiency of pseudopod formation, but is not essential for the basic behavior of pseudopod expansion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Cell Movement*
  • Chemotaxis*
  • Cyclic AMP / pharmacology
  • Cytoplasm / physiology
  • Dictyostelium / cytology
  • Dictyostelium / physiology*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Immunoassay
  • Myosins / biosynthesis
  • Myosins / genetics
  • Myosins / physiology*
  • Pseudopodia / physiology
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • Actins
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Myosins