During development in the cellular slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum starved amoebae aggregate to form multicellular structures that display a simple antero-posterior pattern: pre-stalk cells occupy the front 20% of the aggregate, and prespore cells occupy the remainder1–4. We have attempted to elucidate the nature of the mechanism regulating the proportions of the two cell types1,5,6 by examining the factors that influence the pathway of differentiation of amoebae in vitro. Amoebae of D. discoideum strain V12 M2 form stalk cells efficiently in appropriate conditions and ‘sporogenous’ derivatives produce spores as well as stalk cells7,8. Mature spores are formed in a medium containing only cyclic AMP and salts9, whereas formation of stalk cells requires, in addition, a low molecular weight hydrophobic factor (DIF)7,10. Recent observations have led us to propose that DIF is a morphogen responsible for activating stalk cell differentiation5,11–13. Here we present evidence that ammonia is a second morphogen, that acts antagonistically to DIF, and that the choice of differentiation pathway is mediated by intracellular pH.
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Gross, J., Bradbury, J., Kay, R. et al. Intracellular pH and the control of cell differentiation in Dictyostelium discoideum. Nature 303, 244–245 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1038/303244a0
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