The transition to multicellularity is a key feature of the Dictyostelium life cycle, and two genes, gbf and lagC, are known to play pivotal roles in regulating this developmental switch. lagC-null and gbf-null cells fail to induce cell-type-specific genes ordinarily expressed during multicellular development. The null mutants also share a similar morphological phenotype: mutant cells repeatedly aggregate to form a loose mound, disperse, and reform a mound, rather than proceeding to form a tip. To characterize defects in morphogenesis in these mutants, we examined cell motion in the mutant mounds. In analogy with the failed transition in gene expression, we found that lagC-null and gbf-null mounds failed to make a morphogenetic transition from random to rotational motion normally observed in the parent strain. One reason for this was the inability of the mutant mounds to establish a single, dominant signaling-wave center. This defect of lagC-null or gbf-null cells could be overcome by the addition of adenosine, which alters cAMP signaling, but then even in the presence of apparently normal signaling waves, cell motility was still aberrant. This motility defect, as well as the signaling-wave defect, could be overcome in lagC-null cells by overexpression of GBF, suggesting that lagC is dispensable if GBF protein levels are high enough. This set of morphogenetic defects that we have observed helps define key steps in mound morphogenesis. These include the establishment of a dominant signaling-wave center and the capacity of cells to move directionally within the cell mass in response to guidance cues.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.