|dc.description.abstract||A hallmark feature of Dictyostelium development is the establishment and maintenance of precise cell-type proportions. In the case of D. discoideum, roughly 20% of the cells that aggregate form the stalk while the remaining 80% form the spores. In order to identify genes involved in cell-type proportioning Jaiswal et al. (2006) carried out random insertional mutagenesis (REMI) of the D. discoideum genome. This led to the identification of a novel gene, which was named trishanku (triA). A knock-out of triA did not show any defects during growth and early development but multiple defects later during development.
To understand the reasons for the multiple developmental defects in the absence of triA, I looked at the genomic organization and the pattern of expression of the triA gene. In silico analysis points to the presence of more than one consensus D. discoideum promoter sequence upstream to exons1 and 2, raising the possibility that the triA gene could code for more than one transcript. Northern blot analysis confirms this prediction and provides evidence for the presence of two transcripts: triA1-2-3 (~ 2.9 kb, containing exons 1+2+3) and triA2-3 (~ 2 kb, containing exons 2+3). Both transcripts have exons 2 and 3 in common. In triA- cells, the REMI cassette is inserted in exon 2, which is common to both transcripts; thus, the absence of triA results in the lack of both. The transcripts are absent in vegetative cells but expressed during development. triA2-3 is expressed earlier, by 3h, while triA1-2-3 is expressed later, by 9h, and both remain till the end of development. triA2-3 and triA1-2-3 are differentially regulated by different aspects of the extracellular environment which include mode of development of cells (solid substratum versus shaken suspension), the presence of a high level of extracellular cAMP and formation of stable cell-cell contacts. The expression of triA2-3 and triA1-2-3 in triA- cells, one at a time under a constitutive promoter (Actin15 promoter), suggests that the two transcripts have both specific as well as overlapping functions in the cell. The triA2-3 transcript can specifically restore spore forming efficiency and stalk thickness, while the triA1-2-3 transcript can rescue the stream break up defect. Both the transcripts can rescue the sub-terminal position of the sorus, spore shape and spore viability.
To address the question of stream break-up during mid to late aggregation in triA- cells, I have looked at the cell adhesion profile of triA- cells and compared it with the wild type (Ax2). triA- cells show transient disaggregation in buffer and a 2h delay in agglutination in presence of buffer with 10mM EDTA. This aberrant cell adhesion profile seen in triA- cells is in accordance with the expression pattern of genes encoding known cell adhesion molecules. triA- cells also overproduce an extracellular factor which significantly decreases the aggregate size of both Ax2 and triA-. The nature of the extracellular factor overproduced by in triA- cells is currently unknown, but it is not the same as cell-counting factor which is overproduced by smlA null cells.
To look at the mis-expression of cell type-specific genes, I have monitored the movement of prestalk cells into the prespore region and vice versa in both Ax2 and triA- slugs. My studies show that there is extensive movement of prestalk cells into the prespore region and of prespore cells into the prestalk region in triA- slugs, which is absent in Ax2 slugs. Also, cells that move into the ‘wrong’ region show a change their cell fate (transdifferentiate) appropriate to the new location; whether transdifferentiation precedes or succeeds cell movement is not yet clear. Transdifferentiation is observed to a certain extent in Ax2 slugs, but only after prolonged migration; triA- slugs show enhanced transdifferentiation even in the absence of migration.
To find out the possible reason(s) for the formation of a sub-terminal spore mass in the absence of triA, I have checked whether the defect lies in the ability of the prespore cells to rise up the stalk or in the ability of the upper cup (cells present above the spore mass contributed by a subset of prestalk cells and anterior like-cells) to pull the spore mass to the top. To see which of the two reasons could be responsible for the formation of a sub-terminal spore mass in triA-, I carried out transplantation experiments where the anterior one-fourth region of an Ax2 or triA- slug is grafted to the posterior four-fifth region of a triA- or Ax2 slug and the morphology of the fruiting body is observed. My studies show that the sub-terminal position of the spore mass in triA- is not due to an inability of the prespore cells to rise to the top but to a defect in the upper cup. The upper cup in triA- remains motile but is unable to remain attached to the prespore mass during culmination. It detaches, rises up the stalk and is present at the tip of the stalk. Mixing a minority of triA- cells (20%) with an excess of Ax2 (80%) results in an upper up formed by Ax2 alone. In this situation, the wild type upper cup is able to lift the triA- prespore mass to the top. Thus, the presence of triA (a prespore-specific gene) is essential for the proper functioning of the upper cup cells (which belong to the prestalk class) in order to enable prespore cells to ascend to the top of the stalk.||en_US