Int. J. Dev. Biol. 63: 321 - 331 (2019)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.190128sb
© UPV/EHU Press

The past, present and future of Dictyostelium as a model system

Salvatore Bozzaro*

Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Turin, AOU S. Luigi, Torino, Italy

ABSTRACT The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum has been a preferred model organism during the last 50 years, particularly for the study of cell motility and chemotaxis, phagocytosis and macropinocytosis, intercellular adhesion, pattern formation, caspase-independent cell death and more recently autophagy and social evolution. Being a soil amoeba and professional phagocyte, thus exposed to a variety of potential pathogens, D. discoideum has also proven to be a powerful genetic and cellular model for investigating host-pathogen interactions and microbial infections. The finding that the Dictyostelium genome harbours several homologs of human genes responsible for a variety of diseases has stimulated their analysis, providing new insights into the mechanism of action of the encoded proteins and in some cases into the defect underlying the disease. Recent technological developments have covered the genetic gap between mammals and non-mammalian model organisms, challenging the modelling role of the latter. Is there a future for Dictyostelium discoideum as a model organism?

Keywords:

Dictyostelium, chemotaxis, phagocytosis, host-pathogen interaction, cell adhesion

*Corresponding author e-mail: salvatore.bozzaro@unito.it