Cell type specificity of a diffusible inducer is determined by a GATA family transcription factor

Thomas Keller, Christopher R L Thompson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    One poorly understood mechanism of developmental patterning involves the intermingled differentiation of different cell types that then sort out to generate pattern. Examples of this are known in nematodes and vertebrates, and in Dictyostelium it is the major mechanism. However, a general problem with this mechanism is the possibility that different inducers are required for each cell type that arises independently of positional information. Consistent with this idea, in Dictyostelium the signalling molecule DIF acts as a position-independent signal and was thought only to regulate the differentiation of a single cell type (pstO). The results presented here challenge this idea. In a novel genetic selection to isolate genes required for DIF signal transduction, we found a mutant (dimC-) that is a hypomorphic allele of a GATA family transcription factor (gtaC). gtaC expression is directly regulated by DIF, and GtaC rapidly translocates to the nucleus in response to DIF. gtaC- null cells showed some hallmark DIF signalling defects. Surprisingly, other aspects of the mutant were distinct from those of other DIF signalling mutants, suggesting that gtaC regulates a subset of DIF responses. For example, pstO cell differentiation appeared normal. However, we found that pstB cells were mislocalised and the pstB-derived basal disc was much reduced or missing. These defects are due to a failure to respond to DIF as they are phenocopied in other DIF signalling mutants. These findings therefore identify a novel small-molecule-activated GATA factor that is required to regulate the cell type-specific effects of DIF. They also reveal that a non-positional signal can regulate the differentiation of multiple cell types through differential interpretation in receiving cells.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1635-1645
    Number of pages10
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - May 2008


    • Dictyostelium
    • DIF
    • GATA
    • Pattern formation
    • Sorting out


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