Molecular mechanism of glycogen phosphorylase gene regulation during Dictyostelium development

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Virginia Tech


Development of multicellular organisms is one of the most fundamental but least understood biological processes. Due to its simple life cycle, the lower eukaryote Dictyostelium has been used as a model system to study several basic biological problems, such as cell differentiation, cell motility, cell adhesion, signal transduction, and especially gene regulation. Glycogen phosphorylase is the enzyme that initiates one of the key biochemical pathways, glycogen degradation, during Dictyostelium discoideum development. Two forms of glycogen phosphorylase, gpl and gp2, exist in D. discoideum with gp1 being active in vegetative cells and gp2 in differentiating cells. Study of glycogen phosphorylase gene regulation clearly will provide insight into the molecular mechanism of D. discoideum development and facilitate understanding of development in general. Two distinct genes that encode the two forms of glycogen phosphorylase were cloned. The nucleotide sequence analysis of the gp2 gene revealed an open reading frame of 2976 bp, that consists of three exons separated by two introns. An interesting feature in the gene is a 45 bp sequence in the second exon that contains 11 CAA trinucleotide repeats. The entire 5' and 3' non-coding regions of the gp2 gene and the whole 5' noncoding region of the gp1 gene have also been cloned. The regulation of the gp2 gene by Dictyostelium developmental signals was studied. Both cyclic AMP (cAMP) and Differentiation Inducing Factor (DIF) were discovered to induce gp2 gene expression during differentiation. DIF was also found to inhibit the cAMP responsiveness of the gene. Both cAMP and DIF induction of the gene were repressed by NH₃. Another developmental signalling molecule, adenosine, was involved in gp2 gene regulation through the inhibition of the DIF-mediated expression. The cell-type-specificity of the gp2 gene were also investigated. The gene was found to be expressed in both prestalk/stalk and prespore/spore cells. This is in agreement with the cAMP and DIF inducibility of the gene since the former molecule is a spore-cell morphogen, while the latter is a stalk-cell morphogen. A model of gp2 gene regulation during development is proposed, based on these findings. The two gp? introns and the 45 bp CAA repeat were studied by deletion of these elements. However, there were no alterations of gp2 gene expression observed after these deletions. Also investigated was genomic structural alteration in gp1- mutants that were obtained through homologous recombination and antisense RNA. Southern analysis revealed that the normal gp1 gene was disrupted in all homologous recombination transformants and in half of the antisense RNA transformants. Finally, for the first time, an extrachromosomal luciferase reporter vector has been established for the study of cis-acting regulatory elements in D. discoideum.