Dictyostelium discoideum—a model for many reasons
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- Annesley, S.J. & Fisher, P.R. Mol Cell Biochem (2009) 329: 73. doi:10.1007/s11010-009-0111-8
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The social amoeba or cellular slime mould Dictyostelium discoideum is a “professional” phagocyte that has long been recognized for its value as a biomedical model organism, particularly in studying the actomyosin cytoskeleton and chemotactic motility in non-muscle cells. The complete genome sequence of D. discoideum is known, it is genetically tractable, readily grown clonally as a eukaryotic microorganism and is highly accessible for biochemical, cell biological and physiological studies. These are the properties it shares with other microbial model organisms. However, Dictyostelium combines these with a unique life style, with motile unicellular and multicellular stages, and multiple cell types that offer for study an unparalleled variety of phenotypes and associated signalling pathways. These advantages have led to its recent emergence as a valuable model organism for studying the molecular pathogenesis and treatment of human disease, including a variety of infectious diseases caused by bacterial and fungal pathogens. Perhaps surprisingly, this organism, without neurons or brain, has begun to yield novel insights into the cytopathology of mitochondrial diseases as well as other genetic and idiopathic disorders affecting the central nervous system. Dictyostelium has also contributed significantly to our understanding of NDP kinase, as it was the Dictyostelium enzyme whose structure was first determined and related to enzymatic activity. The phenotypic richness and tractability of Dictyostelium should provide a fertile arena for future exploration of NDPK’s cellular roles.