Resource Details

Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Signaling Components Involved in the Control of Chemotaxis in Dictyostelium discoideum

Alan R. Kimmel1, Carole A. Parent2, and Nancy R. Gough3*

1Laboratory of Cellular and Developmental Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

2Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

3 Science�s STKE, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Avenue, Washington, DC 20005, USA.


*Corresponding author. E-mail: E-Mail


This animation shows the redistribution of several proteins during the response of the single-celled organism Dictyostelium discoideum to the chemoattractant cAMP. This genetically tractable model organism moves toward very shallow gradients of cAMP and is widely used to study the cellular mechanisms that control chemotaxis and amplification of signaling gradients across a single cell. Press the arrows at the top of the animation to proceed through each part.

Under quiescent (unstimulated) conditions, the cAMP receptors (cARs) are randomly distributed around the surface of the cell in tight association with heterotrimeric G protein subunits. The PTEN phosphatase, adenylyl cyclase A (ACA), and the kinase PAKa are preferentially localized at the plasma membrane (PM), whereas phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and its immediate downstream effectors, the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain proteins, are primarily cytosolic. F-actin and myosin II accumulate at the cortex--the inner membrane perimeter.

In the presence of a global, uniform extracellular cAMP stimulus, there is a rapid and dramatic redistribution of signaling components. Upon stimulation of the cARs, the G proteins become activated, leading to a dissociation of Gα-GTP and Gβγ subunits. PTEN is delocalized to the cytosol, whereas PI3K becomes preferentially associated with the PM; this yields a consequent net accumulation of PI(3,4,5)P 3 at the PM that recruits the PH proteins. [Note: In the presence of an unvarying, global cAMP stimulus (not shown), the cells become adapted and the subcellular localizations of PTEN, PI3K, and the PH proteins revert to their pre-stimulated positions].

When placed in a cAMP gradient, the cells become highly polarized and chemotax in the direction of the gradient source. Under these conditions, the receptors and G proteins remain uniformly distributed. PI3K and PTEN, however, are reciprocally localized. PI3K accumulates at the leading edge, whereas PTEN is primarily found at the sides and rear. Collectively, this serves to limit PI(3,4,5)P 3 and PH protein localizations to the leading edge. F-actin and myosin II largely follow this dichotomy. The polymerization of F-actin at the leading edge drives anterior protrusion in the direction of the chemoattractant gradient, whereas myosin II manifests cortical tension to suppress lateral pseudopod formation and to promote retraction of the rear in the direction of the gradient. Both ACA and PAKa, downstream effectors of specific PH proteins, localize preferentially to the rear of migrating cells.

This animation was created by Cameron Slayden with the scientific oversight of Carole A. Parent and Alan R. Kimmel.

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Educational Details

Learning Resource Type: Animation

Context: Undergraduate upper division, graduate, professional (degree program)

Intended Users: Teacher, learner

Intended Educational Use: Teach, learn

Discipline: Cell biology, molecular biology

Keywords: GPCR, cytoskeleton, signal transduction, phosphoinositides, cyclic AMP, movie

Technical Details

Format: Shockwave flash (swf)

Size: 56 kb

Requirements: Macromedia Flash 5 (

Related Resources

Connections Maps: A. R. Kimmel, C. A. Parent, Dictyostelium discoideum cAMP chemotaxis pathway. Sci. STKE (Connections Map),;CMP_7918. [Specific Pathway]

Limits for Use

Cost: Free

Rights: This material may be downloaded, printed, linked to, and/or redistributed without modification for noncommercial, course-teaching purposes only, provided credit to STKE is included by listing the citation for the teaching resource.


Citation: A. R. Kimmel, C. A. Parent, N. R. Gough, Spatial and temporal dynamics of signaling components involved in the control of chemotaxis in Dictyostelium discoideum. Sci. STKE2004, tr3 (2004).

© 2004 American Association for the Advancement of Science