Aggregating cells of Dictyostelium discoideum are able to release cyclic AMP periodically. The oscillations of cAMP generation are associated with changes in adenylate cyclase activity. Cyclic AMP receptors on the cell surface are functionally coupled to the oscillating system as evidenced by phase shifts that are induced by small pulses of extracellular cAMP. An important element of the oscillating system is the signal processing from surface receptors to the adenylate cyclase. This pathway exhibits adaptation resulting in the suppression of responses to constant, elevated concentrations of cAMP. The signal input for adenylate cyclase activation is, therefore, a change in the extracellular cAMP concentration with time. Oscillations in the absence of detectable changes of intra- or extracellular cAMP concentrations suggest the possibility that there is a metabolic network in D. discoideum cells that undergoes oscillations without coupling to adenylate cyclase. Cyclic GMP concentrations oscillate with a slight phase difference in advance of that of cAMP, suggesting that the two nucleotide cyclases might not be activated by the same mechanism. Elevation of extracellular calcium exerts an inhibitory effect on the accumulation of cAMP and on the second of the two cGMP peaks.

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