Evolution of Multicellular Complexity in The Dictyostelid Social Amoebas

Koryu Kin, Pauline Schaap (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)
    82 Downloads (Pure)


    Multicellularity evolved repeatedly in the history of life, but how it unfolded varies greatly between different lineages. Dictyostelid social amoebas offer a good system to study the evolution of multicellular complexity, with a well-resolved phylogeny and molecular genetic tools being available. We compare the life cycles of the Dictyostelids with closely related amoebozoans to show that complex life cycles were already present in the unicellular common ancestor of Dictyostelids. We propose frost resistance as an early driver of multicellular evolution in Dictyostelids and show that the cell signalling pathways for differentiating spore and stalk cells evolved from that for encystation. The stalk cell differentiation program was further modified, possibly through gene duplication, to evolve a new cell type, cup cells, in Group 4 Dictyostelids. Studies in various multicellular organisms, including Dictyostelids, volvocine algae, and metazoans, suggest as a common principle in the evolution of multicellular complexity that unicellular regulatory programs for adapting to environmental change serve as “proto-cell types” for subsequent evolution of multicellular organisms. Later, new cell types could further evolve by duplicating and diversifying the “proto-cell type” gene regulatory networks
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number487
    Number of pages16
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2021


    • evolution of multicellularity
    • amoebozoa
    • dictyostelia
    • cAMP signalling
    • encystation
    • cell type evolution
    • Evolution of multicellularity
    • Cell type evolution
    • Encystation
    • Amoebozoa
    • Dictyostelia
    • CAMP signalling

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Genetics(clinical)
    • Genetics


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