The development of a uninucleate ameba into a multinucleate, syncytial plasmodium in myxomycetes involves a change from the open, astral mitosis of the ameba to the intranuclear, anastral mitosis of the plasmodium, and the omission of cytokinesis from the cell cycle. We describe immunofluorescence microscopic studies of the amebal-plasmodial transition (APT) in Physarum polycephalum. We demonstrate that the reorganization of mitotic spindles commences in uninucleate cells after commitment to plasmodium formation, is completed by the binucleate stage, and occurs via different routes in individual developing cells. Most uninucleate developing cells formed mitotic spindles characteristic either of amebae or of plasmodia. However, chimeric mitotic figures exhibiting features of both amebal and plasmodial mitoses, and a novel star microtubular array were also observed. The loss of the ameba-specific alpha 3-tubulin and the accumulation of the plasmodium-specific beta 2-tubulin isotypes during development were not sufficient to explain the changes in the organization of mitotic spindles. The majority of uninucleate developing cells undergoing astral mitoses (amebal and chimeric) exhibited cytokinetic furrows, whereas cells with the anastral plasmodial mitosis exhibited no furrows. Thus, the transition from astral to anastral mitosis during the APT could be sufficient for the omission of cytokinesis from the cell cycle. However, astral mitosis may not ensure cytokinesis: some cells undergoing amebal or chimeric mitosis contained unilateral cytokinetic furrows or no furrow at all. These cells would, most probably, fail to divide. We suggest that a uninucleate committed cell undergoing amebal or chimeric mitosis can either divide or else form a binucleate cell. In contrast, a uninucleate cell with a mitotic spindle of the plasmodial type gives rise only to a binucleate cells. Further, the decision to enter mitosis after commitment to the APT is independent of the developmental changes in the organization of the mitotic spindle and cytokinesis.
The temporal relationship between tubulin expression and the assembly of the mitotic spindle microtubules has been investigated during the naturally synchronous cell cycle of the Physarum plasmodium. The cell cycle behavior of the tubulin isoforms was examined by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of proteins labeled in vivo and by translation of RNA in vitro. alpha 1-, alpha 2-, beta 1-, and beta 2-tubulin synthesis increases coordinately until metaphase, and then falls, with beta 2 falling more rapidly than beta 1. Nucleic acid hybridization demonstrated that alpha- and beta-tubulin RNAs accumulate coordinately during G2, peaking at metaphase. Quantitative analysis demonstrated that alpha-tubulin RNA increases with apparent exponential kinetics, peaking with an increase over the basal level of greater than 40-fold. After metaphase, tubulin RNA levels fall exponentially, with a short half-life (19 min). Electron microscopic analysis of the plasmodium showed that the accumulation of tubulin RNA begins long before the polymerization of mitotic spindle microtubules. By contrast, the decay of tubulin RNA after metaphase coincides with the depolymerization of the spindle microtubules.
Three alpha-tubulins and two beta-tubulins have been resolved by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of whole cell lysates of Physarum myxamoebae or plasmodia. Criteria used to identify the tubulins included migration on two-dimensional gels with myxamoebal tubulins purified by self-assembly into microtubules in vitro, peptide mapping with Staphylococcus V8 protease and with chymotrypsin, immunoprecipitation with a monoclonal antibody specific for beta-tubulin, and, finally, hybrid selection of specific mRNA by cloned tubulin DNA sequences, followed by translation in vitro. Differential expression of the Physarum tubulins was observed. The alpha 1- and beta 1-tubulins were detected in both myxamoebae and plasmodia; alpha 2 and beta 2 were detected only in plasmodia, alpha 3 was detected only in the myxamoebal phase, and may be specific to the flagellate. Observation of more tubulin species in plasmodia than in myxamoebae was remarkable; the only microtubules detected in plasmodia are those of the mitotoic spindle, whereas myxamoebae display cytoplasmic, centriolar, flagellar, and mitotic-spindle microtubules. In vitro translation of myxamoebal and plasmodial RNAs indicated that there are distinct mRNAs, and therefore probably separate genes, for the alpha 1-, alpha 2-, beta 1-, and beta 2-tubulins. Thus, the different patterns of tubulin expression in myxamoebae and plasmodia reflect differential expression of tubulin genes.