We have analyzed a developmentally and spatially regulated prestalk-specific gene and a prespore-specific gene from Dictyostelium. The prestalk gene, pst-cathepsin, encodes a protein highly homologous to the lysosomal cysteine proteinases cathepsin H and cathepsin B. The prespore gene encodes a protein with some homology to the anti-bacterial toxin crambin and has been designated beejin. Using the lambda gtll system, we have made polyclonal antibodies directed against a portion of the protein encoded by pst-cathepsin and other antibodies directed against the beejin protein. Both antibodies stain single bands on Western blots. By immunofluorescence and Western blots, pst-cathepsin is not present in vegetative cells or developing cells during the first approximately 10 h of development. It then appears with a punctate distribution in a subset of developing cells. Beejin is detected only after approximately 15 h of development, also in a subset of cells. Pst-cathepsin is distributed in the anterior approximately 1/10 of migrating slugs and on the peripheral posterior surfaces of slugs. Beejin is distributed in the posterior region of slugs. Expression of both pst-cathepsin and beejin can be induced in subsets of isolated cultured cells by a combination of conditioned medium and extracellular cAMP in agreement with the regulation of the mRNAs encoding these proteins. We have used the antibodies as markers for cell type to examine the ontogeny and the spatial distribution of prestalk and prespore cells throughout multicellular development. Our findings suggest that prestalk cell differentiation is independent of position within the aggregate and that the spatial localization of prestalk cells within the multicellular aggregate arises from sorting of the prestalk cells after their induction. We have also found a class of cell in developing aggregates that contains neither the prestalk nor the prespore markers.

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