Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) is required during metazoan development to mediate the effects of the extracellular signal wingless/Wnt-1 and hence is necessary for correct cell type specification. GSK-3 also regulates cell fate during Dictyostelium development, but in this case it appears to mediate the effects of extracellular cAMP. By direct measurement of GSK-3 kinase activity during Dictyostelium development, we find that there is a rise in activity at the initiation of multicellular development which can be induced by cAMP. The timing of the rise correlates with the requirement for the Dictyostelium homologue of GSK-3, GSKA, to specify cell fate. We show that loss of the cAMP receptor cAR3 almost completely abolishes the rise in kinase activity and causes a mis-specification of cell fate that is equivalent to that seen in a gskA- mutant. The phenotype of a cAR3(−) mutant however is less severe than loss of gskA and ultimately gives rise to an apparently wild-type fruiting body. These results indicate that in Dictyostelium extracellular cAMP acts via cAR3 to cause a rise in GSKA kinase activity which regulates cell type patterning during the initial stages of multicellularity.

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