In developing Dictyostelium discoideum cells, binding of cyclic AMP to the chemotactic receptor has been shown to oscillate. These oscillations represent cycles of activation, adaptation and deadaptation of the cyclic AMP receptor system. We studied the molecular basis of these oscillatory changes in cyclic AMP receptor binding. We developed a rapid method of lysing cells during the course of the oscillations. This method guaranteed good preservation of ligand binding properties of the cyclic AMP receptor. We found that oscillations in cyclic AMP binding resulted from changes in receptor affinity. The total number of receptors did not significantly change during oscillations. Our experiments also showed that both GTP and GDP abolished oscillations in receptor binding completely, presumably by acting via a G protein. The guanine nucleotides reduced the affinity of the receptor at all time-points of the oscillation cycle to the minimal, i.e. adapted, level. We conclude that the cyclic process of activation, adaptation and de-adaptation in D. discoideum, at cyclic AMP receptor level, involves changes in receptor-G protein interaction. During adaptation, the affinity of the cyclic AMP receptor decreases and the receptor becomes insensitive to guanine nucleotides.

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