November 21, 2001
Here, GNN posts scientific abstracts of papers reporting on Dictyostelium discoideum, a model organism for molecular studies of cell biology and development.
The Dictyostelium genome is currently being sequenced through the efforts of an international consortium. Scientists are interested in Dictyostelium because of its remarkable starvation-induced life cycle, where single cells merge to form a multicellular organism. The organism is amenable to genetic manipulation and an ideal candidate for understanding how cells move and respond so quickly.
The circular mitochondrial genome of Dictyostelium discoideum has a size of 55,564 base pairs. We present here a complete and detailed transcription map of the mitochondrial DNA. Eight major, polycistronic transcripts encoding polypeptides, ribosomal RNAs and interspersed transfer RNAs were identified in Northern hybridization studies. Most of these polycistronic transcripts are subsequently processed into smaller mono-, di- or tricistronic RNAs. In some cases, the maturation involves endonucleolytic cleavage of the transcripts using transfer RNAs as excision signals. Primer extension experiments mapped the 5' ends of the transcripts, which may represent transcription initiation sites. Two of the polycistronic transcripts were found to be overlapping. Based on sequence alignments of the potential transcription start sites, a short oligonucleotide consensus initiation sequence has been identified which does not reveal any significant sequence homologies to known promoter regions from other organisms.
Curr Genet 2001 Jul;39(5-6):355-64.
In Dictyostelium, development begins with the aggregation of free living amoebae, which soon become organized into a relatively simple organism with a few different cell types. Coordinated cell type differentiation and morphogenesis lead to a final fruiting body that allows the dispersal of spores. The study of these processes is having increasing impact on our understanding of general developmental mechanisms. The availability of biochemical and molecular genetics techniques has allowed the discovery of complex signaling networks which are essential for Dictyostelium development and are also conserved in other organisms. The levels of cAMP (both intracellular and extracellular) play essential roles in every stage of Dictyostelium development, regulating many different signal transduction pathways. Two-component systems, involving histidine kinases and response regulators, have been found to regulate intracellular cAMP levels and PKA during terminal differentiation. The sequence of the Dictyostelium genome is expected to be completed in less than two years. Nevertheless, the available sequences that are already being released, together with the results of expressed sequence tags (ESTs), are providing invaluable tools to identify new and interesting genes for further functional analysis. Global expression studies, using DNA microarrays in synchronous development to study temporal changes in gene expression, are presently being developed. In the near future, the application of this type of technology to the complete set of Dictyostelium genes (approximately 10,000) will facilitate the discovery of the effects of mutation of components of the signaling networks that regulate Dictyostelium development on changes in gene expression.
Int J Dev Biol 2000 Dec;44(8):819-35. Review.
We present an overview of the gene content and organization of the mitochondrial genome of Dictyostelium discoideum. The mitochondria genome consists of 55,564 bp with an A + T content of 72.6%. The identified genes include those for two ribosomal RNAs (rn1 and rns), 18 tRNAs, ten subunits of the NADH dehydrogenase complex (nad1, 2, 3, 4, 4L, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11), apocytochrome b (cytb), three subunits of the cytochrome oxidase (cox1/2 and 3), four subunits of the ATP synthase complex (atp1, 6, 8 and 9), 15 ribosomal proteins, and five other ORFs, excluding intronic ORFs. Notable features of D. discoideum mtDNA include the following. (1) All genes are encoded on the same strand of the DNA and a universal genetic code is used. (2) The cox1 gene has no termination codon and is fused to the downstream cox2 gene. The 13 genes for ribosomal proteins and four ORF genes form a cluster 15.4 kb long with several gene overlaps. (3) The number of tRNAs encoded in the genome is not sufficient to support the synthesis of mitochondrial protein. (4) In total, five group I introns reside in rnl and cox1/2, and three of those in cox1/2 contain four free-standing ORFs. We compare the genome to other sequenced mitochondrial genomes, particularly that of Acanthamoeba castellanii.
Mol Gen Genet 2000 Apr;263(3):514-9.
The actin cytoskeleton is an essential structure for most movements at the cellular and intracellular level. Whereas for contraction a muscle cell requires a rather static organisation of cytoskeletal proteins, cell motility of amoeboid cells relies on a tremendously dynamic turnover of filamentous networks in a matter of seconds and at distinct regions inside the cell. The best model system for studying cell motility is Dictyostelium discoideum. The cells live as single amoebae but can also start a developmental program that leads to multicellular stages and differentiation into simple types of tissues. Thus, cell motility can be studied on single cells and on cells in a tissue-like aggregate. The ability to combine protein purification and biochemistry with fairly easy molecular genetics is a unique feature for investigation of the cytoskeleton and cell motility. The actin cytoskeleton in Dictyostelium harbours essentially all classes of actin-binding proteins that have been found throughout eukaryotes. By conventional mutagenesis, gene disruption, antisense approaches, or gene replacements many genes that code for cytoskeletal proteins have been disrupted, and altered phenotypes in transformants that lacked one or more of those cytoskeletal proteins allowed solid conclusions about their in vivo function. In addition, tagging the proteins or selected domains with green fluorescent protein allows the monitoring of protein redistribution during cell movement. Gene tagging by restriction enzyme mediated integration of vectors and the ongoing international genome and cDNA sequencing projects offer the chance to understand the dynamics of the cytoskeleton by identification and functional characterisation of all proteins involved.
Microsc Res Tech 1999 Oct 15;47(2):124-34. Review.
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