The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 63: 497 - 508 (2019)

Vol 63, Issue 8-9-10

Special Issue: The Dictyostelium model system

The Dictyostelium model for mitochondrial biology and disease

Published: 11 December 2019

Xavier G. Pearce, Sarah J. Annesley and Paul R. Fisher*

Discipline of Microbiology, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia


The unicellular slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum is a valuable eukaryotic model organism in the study of mitochondrial biology and disease. As a member of the Amoebozoa, a sister clade to the animals and fungi, Dictyostelium mitochondrial biology shares commonalities with these organisms, but also exhibits some features of plants. As such it has made significant contributions to the study of eukaryotic mitochondrial biology. This review provides an overview of the advances in mitochondrial biology made by the study of Dictyostelium and examines several examples where Dictyostelium has and will contribute to the understanding of mitochondrial disease. The study of Dictyostelium’s mitochondrial biology has contributed to the understanding of mitochondrial genetics, transcription, protein import, respiration, morphology and trafficking, and the role of mitochondria in cellular differentiation. Dictyostelium is also proving to be a versatile model organism in the study both of classical mitochondrial disease e.g. Leigh syndrome, and in mitochondria-associated neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. The study of mitochondrial diseases presents a unique challenge due to the cryptic nature of their genotype-phenotype relationship. The use of Dictyostelium can contribute to resolving this problem by providing a genetically tractable, haploid eukaryotic organism with a suite of readily characterised phenotype readouts of cellular signalling pathways. Dictyostelium has provided insight into the signalling pathways involved in multiple neurodegenerative diseases and will continue to provide a significant contribution to the understanding of mitochondrial biology and disease.


Dictyostelium, mitochondrial biology, mitochondrial disease, AMPK, neurodegeneration

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