Symbiotic bacteria, immune-like sentinel cells, and the response to pathogens in a social amoeba

Trey J. Scott, Tyler J. Larsen, Debra A. Brock, So Yeon Stacey Uhm, David C. Queller, Joan E. Strassmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some endosymbionts living within a host must modulate their hosts' immune systems in order to infect and persist. We studied the effect of a bacterial endosymbiont on a facultatively multicellular social amoeba host. Aggregates of the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum contain a subpopulation of sentinel cells that function akin to the immune systems of more conventional multicellular organisms. Sentinel cells sequester and discard toxins from D. discoideum aggregates and may play a central role in defence against pathogens. We measured the number and functionality of sentinel cells in aggregates of D. discoideum infected by bacterial endosymbionts in the genus Paraburkholderia. Infected D. discoideum produced fewer and less functional sentinel cells, suggesting that Paraburkholderia may interfere with its host's immune system. Despite impaired sentinel cells, however, infected D. discoideum were less sensitive to ethidium bromide toxicity, suggesting that Paraburkholderia may also have a protective effect on its host. By contrast, D. discoideum infected by Paraburkholderia did not show differences in their sensitivity to two non-symbiotic pathogens. Our results expand previous work on yet another aspect of the complicated relationship between D. discoideum and Paraburkholderia, which has considerable potential as a model for the study of symbiosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number230727
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 16 2023


  • Dictyostelium
  • Paraburkholderia
  • pathogens
  • sentinel cells
  • symbiosis


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