Open Access Research article

RasG signaling is important for optimal folate chemotaxis in Dictyostelium

Alex Chattwood*, Parvin Bolourani and Gerald Weeks

Author Affiliations

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, 1365, Life Sciences Centre 2350, Health Sciences Mall, V6T 1Z3 Vancouver, BC, Canada

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BMC Cell Biology 2014, 15:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-15-13

Published: 17 April 2014



Signaling pathways linking receptor activation to actin reorganization and pseudopod dynamics during chemotaxis are arranged in complex networks. Dictyostelium discoideum has proven to be an excellent model system for studying these networks and a body of evidence has indicated that RasG and RasC, members of the Ras GTPase subfamily function as key chemotaxis regulators. However, recent evidence has been presented indicating that Ras signaling is not important for Dictyostelium chemotaxis. In this study, we have reexamined the role of Ras proteins in folate chemotaxis and then, having re-established the importance of Ras for this process, identified the parts of the RasG protein molecule that are involved.


A direct comparison of folate chemotaxis methodologies revealed that rasG-C- cells grown in association with a bacterial food source were capable of positive chemotaxis, only when their initial position was comparatively close to the folate source. In contrast, cells grown in axenic medium orientate randomly regardless of their distance to the micropipette. Folate chemotaxis is restored in rasG-C- cells by exogenous expression of protein chimeras containing either N- or C- terminal halves of the RasG protein.


Conflicting data regarding the importance of Ras to Dictyostelium chemotaxis were the result of differing experimental methodologies. Both axenic and bacterially grown cells require RasG for optimal folate chemotaxis, particularly in weak gradients. In strong gradients, the requirement for RasG is relaxed, but only in bacterially grown cells. Both N- and C- terminal portions of the RasG protein are important for folate chemotaxis, suggesting that there are functionally important amino acids outside the well established switch I and switch II interaction surfaces.

Ras GTPase; Folate chemotaxis; Signalling