Postvegetative Dictyostelium discoideum cells react chemotactically to gradients of cAMP, folic acid, and pterin. In the presence of a constant concentration of 10(-5) M cAMP cells move at random. They still are able to respond to superimposed gradients of cAMP, although the response is less efficient than without the high background level of cAMP. Cells which are accommodated to 10(-5) M cAMP do not react to a gradient of cAMP if the mean cAMP concentration is decreasing with time. This indicates the involvement of adaptation in the detection of chemotactic gradients: cells adapt to the mean concentration of chemoattractant and respond to positive deviations from the mean concentration. Cells adapted to high cAMP concentrations react normally to gradients of folic acid or pterin. Adaptation to one of these compounds does not affect the response to the other attractants. This suggests that cAMP, folic acid, and pterin are detected by different receptors, and that adaptation is localized at a step in the transduction process before the signals from these receptors coincide into one pathway. I discuss the implications of adaptation for chemotaxis and cell aggregation.

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