The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 63: 359 - 369 (2019)

Vol 63, Issue 8-9-10

Special Issue: The Dictyostelium model system

Evolution of multicellularity in Dictyostelia

Open Access | Published: 11 December 2019

Yoshinori Kawabe, Qingyou Du, Christina Schilde and Pauline Schaap*

School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK


The well-orchestrated multicellular life cycle of Dictyostelium discoideum has fascinated biologists for over a century. Self-organisation of its amoebas into aggregates, migrating slugs and fruiting structures by pulsatile cAMP signalling and their ability to follow separate differentiation pathways in well-regulated proportions continue to be topics under investigation. A striking aspect of D. discoideum development is the recurrent use of cAMP as chemoattractant, differentiation inducing signal and second messenger for other signals that control the developmental programme. D. discoideum is one of >150 species of Dictyostelia and aggregative life styles similar to those of Dictyostelia evolved many times in eukaryotes. Here we review experimental studies investigating how phenotypic complexity and cAMP signalling co-evolved in Dictyostelia. In addition, we summarize comparative genomic studies of multicellular Dictyostelia and unicellular Amoebozoa aimed to identify evolutionary conservation and change in all genes known to be essential for D. discoideum development.


sorocarpic multicellularity, evolution of phenotype, evolution of cAMP signalling, encystation

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