Social amoebae establish a protective interface with their bacterial associates by lectin agglutination

Sci Adv. 2019 Jul 24;5(7):eaav4367. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav4367. eCollection 2019 Jul.


Both animals and amoebae use phagocytosis and DNA-based extracellular traps as anti-bacterial defense mechanisms. Whether, like animals, amoebae also use tissue-level barriers to reduce direct contact with bacteria has remained unclear. We have explored this question in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, which forms plaques on lawns of bacteria that expand as amoebae divide and bacteria are consumed. We show that CadA, a cell adhesion protein that functions in D. discoideum development, is also a bacterial agglutinin that forms a protective interface at the plaque edge that limits exposure of vegetative amoebae to bacteria. This interface is important for amoebal survival when bacteria-to-amoebae ratios are high, optimizing amoebal feeding behavior, and protecting amoebae from oxidative stress. Lectins also control bacterial access to the gut epithelium of mammals to limit inflammatory processes; thus, this strategy of antibacterial defense is shared across a broad spectrum of eukaryotic taxa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Agglutination / genetics
  • Agglutinins / genetics
  • Animals
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / pathogenicity
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics*
  • Dictyostelium / genetics*
  • Dictyostelium / microbiology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Inflammation / genetics*
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Lectins / genetics*
  • Mammals / microbiology
  • Mammals / parasitology
  • Micrococcus luteus / genetics
  • Micrococcus luteus / pathogenicity
  • Phagocytosis / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity


  • Agglutinins
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Lectins