Dictyostelium as a Biomedical Model


The social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum, has been commonly used to investigate cell motility, signal transduction, cell type differentiation and development. With the recent completion of the genome and the increasing number of experimental tools available for the organism, it has now become an attractive model for examining some well‚Äźdefined biomedical questions.

Keywords: amoeba; cancer; medical research; model systems; neuroprotection; pharmacogenetics

Figure 1.

Dictyostelium discoideum, a simple eukaryotic amoeba. (a) Dictyostelium is found in leaf litter on forest floors. The mature fruiting body is around 1 mm tall, and composed of spore head, stalk and basal disc cells. Bar, 0.5 mm. Kindly provided by Owen Gilbert. (b) It can be cultured in the laboratory on a bacterial lawn whereby single cells form circular isogenic plaques as shown, or in liquid culture. (c) Dictyostelium single cells, here showing one cell expressing a green fluorescent‐tagged cytosolic protein (prolyl oligopeptidase). Bar, 10 μm. Reproduced from Williams , by permission of Elsevier.

Figure 2.

Dictyostelium can be used for analysis of drug‐sensitive signalling pathways and drug targets. (a) Wild‐type cells form fruiting bodies over a 24‐h period. (b) The drug valproic acid, a short chain fatty acid used for bipolar disorder and epilepsy treatment, blocks cell aggregation at 1 mM – close to therapeutic concentrations. (c) Use of a clonal line of Dictyostelium containing a dominant active (PKA) enzyme overcomes this block, suggesting the signalling pathway containing this enzyme may be reduced by the drug. (d) Dictyostelium cells form immature fruiting bodies after 18 h of development, a process which is also blocked (e) in the presence of 0.5 mM VPA or (f) with novel drugs based around the structure of VPA. Bar, 0.5 mm. See also Boeckeler et al., .



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Further Reading

Eichinger L and Rivero F (eds) (2006) Dictyostelium discoideum protocols. In: Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 346. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press Inc.

Kessin RH (2001) Dictyostelium – Evolution, Cell Biology, and the Development of Multicellularity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Maniak M and Nellen W (2004) Dictyostelium: cell culture and molecular tools. In: eLS. Chichester: Wiley. http://www.els.net/ [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002579]

Williams RSB (2005) Pharmacogenetics in model systems: defining a common mechanism of action for mood stabilizers. Progress in Neuro‐psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 29: 1029–1037.

Williams RSB, Boeckeler K, Gräf R et al. (2006) Towards a molecular understanding of human diseases using Dictyostelium discoideum. Trends in Molecular Medicine 12: 415–424.

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Boeckeler, Katrina, and Williams, Robin SB(Sep 2007) Dictyostelium as a Biomedical Model. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0006038]