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Mark Hickman

Advisor: Dale Hereld, MD, Ph.D.

Returned to his position in the US army after receiving PhD

The social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum, undergoes a remarkable starvation-induced program of development that transforms a population of unicellular amoebae into a fruiting body composed of resistant spores suspended on a stalk. During this development, secreted cAMP drives chemotaxis of the amoebae, leading to their aggregation, and subsequent differentiation and morphogenesis. Four sequentially expressed G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) for cAMP play critical roles in this process. The first of these, cAR1, is essential for aggregation as it mediates chemotaxis as well as the propagation of secreted cAMP waves throughout aggregating populations. Ligand-induced internalization has been shown to regulate a variety of GPCRs. However, little was known at the outset of this study about the role of internalization in the regulation of cAR1 function or, for that matter, in developmental systems in general. For this study, cAMP-induced cAR1 internalization was assessed by measuring (1) the reduction of cell surface binding sites for [3H]cAMP and (2) the redistribution of YFP-tagged receptors to the cell’s interior. cAMP was found to induce little or no loss of ligand binding (LLB) in vegetative cells. However, the ability to induce LLB increased progressively over the initial 6 hrs of development, reaching ~70% in cells undergoing aggregation. Despite these reductions in surface binding, detectable cAR1-YFP redistribution could be induced by cAMP only after the cells reached the mound stage (10 hrs) and was found to occur naturally by the ensuing slug stage (18 hrs). Site-directed substitution of a cluster of 5 serines in the receptor’s cytoplasmic tail that was previously shown to be the principal site of cAMP-induced cAR1 phosphorylation impaired both LLB and receptor redistribution and furthermore resulted in mound-stage developmental arrest, suggesting that phosphorylation of cAR1 is a prerequisite for its internalization and that cAR1 internalization is required for post-aggregative development. To assess the involvement of clathrin mediated endocytosis, Dictyostelium cells lacking the clathrin light chain gene (clc-) or either of two dynamin genes were examined and found to be defective in LLB and, in the case of clc- cells, also cAR1 redistribution and turnover. Furthermore, cAR1 overexpression inclc- cells (like the serine mutant in wild-type cells) promoted developmental arrest in mounds. The mound-arrest phenotype was also recapitulated in a wild-type background by the specific expression of cAR1 in prestalk cells (but not prespore cells), suggesting that development depends critically on internalization and clearance of cAR1 from these cells. Persistent cAR1 expression following aggregation was found to be associated with aberrant expression of prestalk and prespore genes, which may adversely affect development in the prestalk cell lineage. The PI3 kinase-TORC2 signal transduction pathway, known to be important for Dictyostelium chemotaxis and internalization of yeast pheromone receptors, was examined using chemical inhibitors and null cells and found to be necessary for cAR1 internalization. In conclusion, cAR1 was shown to be similar to other GPCRs in that its internalization depends on phosphorylation of cytoplasmic domain serines, utilizes clathrin and dynamin, and involves the TORC2 complex. In addition, the findings presented here that cAR1 internalization is both developmentally regulated and required for normal development represent a novel regulatory paradigm that might pertain to other GPCRs known to play important roles in the development of humans and other metazoans.

Search pubmed for papers by M. Hickman and D. Hereld

Research Info

Ligand-stimulated internalization of a Dictyostelium discoideum G protein-coupled cAMP receptor