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Propagating waves of cAMP, periodically initiated in the aggregation centre, are known to guide the chemotactic aggregation of hundreds of thousands of starving individual Dictyostelium discoideum cells into multicellular aggregates. Propagating optical density waves, reflecting cell periodic movement, have previously been shown to exist in streaming aggregates, mounds and migrating slugs. Using a highly sensitive cAMP-FRET reporter, we have now been able to measure periodically propagating cAMP waves directly in these multicellular structures. In slugs cAMP waves are periodically initiated in the tip and propagate backward through the prespore zone. Altered cAMP signalling dynamics in mutants with developmental defects strongly support a key functional role for cAMP waves in multicellular Dictyostelium morphogenesis. These findings thus show that propagating cAMP not only control the initial aggregation process but continue to be the long range cell-cell communication mechanism guiding cell movement during multicellular Dictyostelium morphogenesis at the mound and slugs stages.
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