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Open Access Research article

Mef2A, a homologue of animal Mef2 transcription factors, regulates cell differentiation in Dictyostelium discoideum

María Galardi-Castilla1, Irene Fernandez-Aguado1, Teresa Suarez2 and Leandro Sastre1*

Author affiliations

1 Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas de Madrid (Biomedical Research Institute of Madrid), CSIC/UAM, C/Arturo Duperier 4, 28029 Madrid, Spain

2 Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas (Biological Research Center), CSIC, C/Ramiro de Maeztu, 9, 28040, Madrid, Spain

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Citation and License

BMC Developmental Biology 2013, 13:12  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-13-12

Published: 11 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Transcription factors from the MADS-box family play a relevant role in cell differentiation and development and include the animal SRF (serum response factor) and MEF2 (myocyte enhancer factor 2) proteins. The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum contains four genes coding for MADS-box transcription factors, two of these genes code for proteins that are more similar to SRF, and the other two code for proteins that are more similar to MEF2 animal factors.

Results

The biological function of one of the two genes that codes for MEF2-related proteins, a gene known as mef2A, is described in this article. This gene is expressed under the transcriptional control of two alternative promoters in growing cells, and its expression is induced during development in prespore cells. Mutant strains where the mef2A gene has been partially deleted were generated to study its biological function. The mutant strains showed reduced growth when feeding on bacteria and were able to develop and form fruiting bodies, but spore production was significantly reduced. A study of developmental markers showed that prespore cells differentiation was impaired in the mutant strains. When mutant and wild-type cells were set to develop in chimeras, mutant spores were underrepresented in the fruiting bodies. The mutant cells were also unable to form spores in vitro. In addition, mutant cells also showed a poor contribution to the formation of the tip-organizer and the upper region of slugs and culminant structures. In agreement with these observations, a comparison of the genes transcribed by mutant and wild-type strains during development indicated that prestalk gene expression was enhanced, while prespore gene expression decreased in the mef2A- strain.

Conclusions

Our data shows that mef2A plays a role in cell differentiation in D. discoideum and modulates the expression of prespore and prestalk genes.

Keywords:
Myocyte enhancer factor 2; Dictyostelium; Cell differentiation; Development; Cell-type patterning; Transcription factor