Variable pathways for developmental changes in composition and organization of microtubules in Physarum polycephalum

L. Solnica-Krezel, M. Diggins-Gilicinski, T. G. Burland, W. F. Dove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The development of uninucleate amoebae into multinucleate plasmodia in myxomycetes is called the amoebal-plasmodial transition (APT). During the APT of Physarum polycephalum the ability to form flagellar axonemes is lost; the astral, open mitosis is replaced by the anastral, closed mitosis; and cytoskeletal microtubules disappear. These changes are accompanied by alterations in the repertoire of expressed tubulins. Using immunofluorescence microscopy we have studied the timing of loss and accumulation of developmentally regulated tubulin isotypes in relation to other cellular events during the APT. We specifically asked whether changes in the composition of microtubules are correlated with changes in their organization. The plasmodium-specific β2-tubulin can first be detected in microtubules of uninucleate cells after they become committed to plasmodium formation. However, rare cells are observed that exhibit β2-tubulin at earlier or only at later stages of development. Amoeba-specific acetylated α3-tubulin disappears gradually during development. Individual cells differ in the timing of loss of this isotype: α3-tubulin is present in the majority of uninucleate cells, in a fraction of binucleate and quadrinucleate cells, and is absent from larger multinucleate cells. Cytoplasmic microtubules in uninucleate cells are organized by a single microtubule-organizing center (MTOC) juxtaposed to the nucleus. Binucleate cells and quadrinucleate cells exhibit variable numbers of MTOCs. Cytoplasmic microtubules persist during the APT until the stage of plasmodia containing at least 100 nuclei. The lack of a strict correlation between the changes in tubulin composition and changes in organization of microtubular structures indicates that accumulation of β2-tubulin and disappearance of α3-tubulin isotypes are not sufficient to bring about reorganization of microtubules during development. Individual cells in a developing population differ not only in the succession of accumulation and loss of developmentally regulated tubulins, but also in the sequences of other cellular changes occurring during the APT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-393
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990


  • Physarum
  • development
  • microtubules
  • tubulin isotypes


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