Periodic Behaviour and Chaos in the Mechanism of Intercellular Communication Governing Aggregation of Dictyostelium Amoebae

  • A. Goldbeter
  • J. L. Martiel
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 138)


Upon starvation, Dictyostelium discoideum amoebae aggregate in a wave-like manner around centers, by a chemotactic response to cAMP signals. These signals are emitted by the centers in the form of pulses, with a periodicity of several minutes. Relay of the cAMP signals by chemotactically responding cells allows one center to control the aggregation of up to 105 amoebae. We analyse a model for the cAMP signalling system, based on the activation of cAMP synthesis upon binding of cAMP to a cell surface receptor, and on desensitisation of this receptor upon incubation with cAMP. The analysis shows that the self-amplifying properties of the signalling system may give rise to an instability leading to autonomous oscillations of cAMP. The model also accounts for the relay of suprathreshold cAMP pulses; such behaviour reflects the excitability of D. discoideum cells. Besides relay and periodic oscillations, the model also shows evidence for bursting and for aperiodic oscillations of cAMP, i.e. chaos (J.L. Martiel and A. Goldbeter, Nature 313:590–592, 1985). The results on chaotic behaviour may be related to experimental observations by Durston (Devel. Biol. 38:308–319, 1974) who found that in contrast to the wild type which aggregates in a periodic manner, the D. discoideum mutant Fr17 is characterised by the property of aperiodic aggregation. Ways to test the possibility that Fr17 behaviour represents an example of chaos in intercellular communication will be discussed, in the light of the modelling study.


Adenylate Cyclase Intercellular Communication Strange Attractor Dictyostelium Discoideum Instability Domain 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Goldbeter
    • 1
  • J. L. Martiel
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculté de SciencesUniversité Libre de Bruxelles Campus PlaineBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Faculté de MédicineUniversité de GrenobleLa TroncheFrance

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