Found in soils worldwide, slime molds such as Dictyostelium discoideum are perhaps best known by their behavior in the presence or absence of food. When food is plentiful, the social amoeba behave as individuals, but when food is scarce, they come together to form multicellular “fruiting bodies” that look like a flower bud atop a single stalk or foot composed of a fifth of the amoebae that have sacrificed themselves for the group.
Studying social amoebae allows researchers to learn more about multicellularity because these amoebae can exist in both single-cell and multicellular states. From a bioremediation perspective however, slime molds are important candidates in cleaning up sites contaminated with chemicals and radioactive materials.
In a recent paper, researchers from DOE’s Joint Genome Institute and Baylor College offer a second Dictyostelium genome, and compare the 33-million base draft sequence produced using the Sanger platform with the finished genome of the model organism D. discoideum.
Separated by 400 million years of evolution, Dictyostelium purpureum is a close relative of D. discoideum and shares many of the same characteristics. Aside from their food-related behaviors, they also have a highly sophisticated recognition system that allows them to distinguish same-species Dictyostelium from others. The researchers found that the genes involved in sociality evolve more rapidly, probably due to continuous adaptation and counter-adaptation.
Reference: Sucgang, R., et al. 2011. “Comparative Genomics of the Social Amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum and Dictyostelium purpureum,” Genome Biology 12:R20, DOI:10/1186/gb-2011-12-2-r20, reference link
Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742, Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
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