Ammonia promotes accumulation of intracellular cAMP in differentiating amoebae of Dictyostelium discoideum. Academic Article uri icon


  • We used sporogenous mutants of Dictyostelium discoideum to investigate the mechanism(s) by which exogenous NH4Cl and high ambient pH promote spore formation during in vitro differentiation. The level of NH4Cl required to optimize spore formation is correlated inversely with pH, indicating that NH3 rather than NH4+ is the active species. The spore-promoting activity of high ambient pH (without exogenous NH4Cl) was eliminated by the addition of an NH3-scavenging cocktail, suggesting that high pH promotes spore differentiation by increasing the ratio of NH3:NH4+ secreted into the medium by developing cells. High ammonia levels and high pH stimulated precocious accumulation of intracellular cAMP in both sporogenous and wild-type cells. In both treatments, peak cAMP levels equaled or exceeded control levels and were maintained for longer periods than in control cells. In contrast, ammonia strongly inhibited accumulation of extracellular cAMP without increasing the rate of extracellular cAMP hydrolysis, indicating that ammonia promotes accumulation of intracellular cAMP by inhibiting cAMP secretion. These results are consistent with previous observations that factors that raise intracellular cAMP levels increase spore formation. Lowering intracellular cAMP levels with caffeine or progesterone inhibited spore formation, but simultaneous exposure to these drugs and optimal concentrations of NH4Cl restored both cAMP accumulation and spore formation to normal levels. These data suggest that ammonia, which is a natural Dictyostelium morphogen, favors spore formation by promoting accumulation or maintenance of high intracellular cAMP levels.

author list (cited authors)

  • Riley, B. B., & Barclay, S. L.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Riley, BB||Barclay, SL

publication date

  • July 1990