Dictyostelium discoideum, a microbial model for social evolution, is known to distinguish self from non-self and show genotype-dependent behavior during chimeric development. Aside from a small number of cell-cell recognition genes, however, little is known about the genetic basis of self/non-self recognition in this species. Based on the key hypothesis that there should be differential expression of genes if D. discoideum cells were interacting with non-clone mates, we performed transcriptomic profiling study in this species during clonal vs. chimeric development. The transcriptomic profiles of D. discoideum cells in clones vs. different chimeras were compared at five different developmental stages using a customized microarray. Effects of chimerism on global transcriptional patterns associated with social interactions were observed.
We find 1,759 genes significantly different between chimera and clone, 1,144 genes associated significant strain differences, and 6,586 genes developmentally regulated over time. Principal component analysis showed a small amount of the transcriptional variance to chimerism-related factors (Chimerism: 0.18%, Chimerism × Timepoint: 0.03%). There are 162 genes specifically regulated under chimeric development, with continuous small differences between chimera vs. clone over development. Almost 60% of chimera-associated differential genes were differentially expressed at the 4 h aggregate stage, which corresponds to the initial transition of D. discoideum from solitary life to a multicellular phase.
A relatively small proportion of over-all variation in gene expression is explained by differences between chimeric and clonal development. The relatively small modifications in gene expression associated with chimerism is compatible with the high level of cooperation observed among different strains of D. discoideum; cells of distinct genetic backgrounds will co-aggregate indiscriminately and co-develop into fruiting bodies. Chimeric development may involve re-programming of the transcriptome through small modifications of the developmental genetic network, which may also indicate that response to social interaction involves many genes with individually small transcriptional effect.
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