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Science 328 (5981): 1021-1025

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The Onset of Collective Behavior in Social Amoebae

Thomas Gregor,1,* Koichi Fujimoto,2,{dagger} Noritaka Masaki,2 Satoshi Sawai1,2,{ddagger}

Abstract: In the social amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum, periodic synthesis and release of extracellular cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cAMP) guide cell aggregation and commitment to form fruiting bodies. It is unclear whether these oscillations are an intrinsic property of individual cells or if they exist only as a population-level phenomenon. Here, we showed by live-cell imaging of intact cell populations that pulses originate from a discrete location despite constant exchange of cells to and from the region. In a perfusion chamber, both isolated single cells and cell populations switched from quiescence to rhythmic activity depending on the concentration of extracellular cAMP. A quantitative analysis showed that stochastic pulsing of individual cells below the threshold concentration of extracellular cAMP plays a critical role in the onset of collective behavior.

1 Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.
2 Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) Complex Systems Biology Project, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Tokyo 153-8902, Japan.

* Present address: Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.

{dagger} Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, Osaka University, Toyonaka 560-0043, Japan.

{ddagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: cssawai{at}

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