The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 63: 383 - 393 (2019)

Vol 63, Issue 8-9-10

Special Issue: The Dictyostelium model system

Cellular allorecognition and its roles in Dictyostelium development and social evolution

Published: 11 December 2019

Peter Kundert1,2 and Gad Shaulsky*,1

1Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA and 2Medical Scientist Training Program, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA


The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum is a tractable model organism to study cellular allorecognition, which is the ability of a cell to distinguish itself and its genetically similar relatives from more distantly related organisms. Cellular allorecognition is ubiquitous across the tree of life and affects many biological processes. Depending on the biological context, these versatile systems operate both within and between individual organisms, and both promote and constrain functional heterogeneity. Some of the most notable allorecognition systems mediate neural self-avoidance in flies and adaptive immunity in vertebrates. D. discoideum’s allorecognition system shares several structures and functions with other allorecognition systems. Structurally, its key regulators reside at a single genomic locus that encodes two highly polymorphic proteins, a transmembrane ligand called TgrC1 and its receptor TgrB1. These proteins exhibit isoform-specific, heterophilic binding across cells. Functionally, this interaction determines the extent to which co-developing D. discoideum strains co-aggregate or segregate during the aggregation phase of multicellular development. The allorecognition system thus affects both development and social evolution, as available evidence suggests that the threat of developmental cheating represents a primary selective force acting on it. Other significant characteristics that may inform the study of allorecognition in general include that D. discoideum’s allorecognition system is a continuous and inclusive trait, it is pleiotropic, and it is temporally regulated.


Dictyostelium, allorecognition, tgrB1, tgrC1, development, social evolution

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