A perfusion technique was developed to deliver [14C]adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) stimuli of well-defined magnitude and duration to tritium-labeled Dictyostelium discoideum amoebae and simultaneously monitor the elicited secretion of [3H]cAMP (i.e., the relay response). The tritiated compounds secreted in response to [14C]cAMP stimuli were highly enriched in [3H]cAMP and reflected an increase in intracellular cAMP accompanying stimulation rather than the release of a preexisting store or bulk cellular contents. The secretory response (per 10(6) cells) to 2-min stimuli increased during differentiation from about 0.2 pmol at 0.5 h to approximately 5 pmol of cAMP at 7 h. Without adequate perfusion, amoebae altered the level of cAMP in their environment in two ways: phosphodiesterases destroyed cAMP stimuli under some conditions so as to attenuate the relay response; under other circumstances, secreted cAMP magnified minimal exogenous stimuli into maximal responses. Amoebae, furthermore, would respond to their basal secretion of cAMP autocatalytically if its removal or destruction were interrupted. The perfusion system minimized these cell-induced modifications, allowing control of the level of the stimulus and response in quantitative studies.

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