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Conte, Daniele; MacWilliams, Harry K. and Ceccarelli, Adriano (2010): BTG interacts with retinoblastoma to control cell fate in Dictyostelium.
In: PLOS ONE 5(3), e9676 [PDF, 667kB]


In the genesis of many tissues, a phase of cell proliferation is followed by cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation. The latter two processes overlap: genes involved in the cessation of growth may also be important in triggering differentiation. Though conceptually distinct, they are often causally related and functional interactions between the cell cycle machinery and cell fate control networks are fundamental to coordinate growth and differentiation. A switch from proliferation to differentiation may also be important in the life cycle of single-celled organisms, and genes which arose as regulators of microbial differentiation may be conserved in higher organisms. Studies in microorganisms may thus contribute to understanding the molecular links between cell cycle machinery and the determination of cell fate choice networks. Here we show that in the amoebozoan D. discoideum, an ortholog of the metazoan antiproliferative gene btg controls cell fate, and that this function is dependent on the presence of a second tumor suppressor ortholog, the retinoblastoma-like gene product. Specifically, we find that btg-overexpressing cells preferentially adopt a stalk cell (and, more particularly, an Anterior-Like Cell) fate. No btg-dependent preference for ALC fate is observed in cells in which the retinoblastoma-like gene has been genetically inactivated. Dictyostelium btg is the only example of non-metazoan member of the BTG family characterized so far, suggesting that a genetic interaction between btg and Rb predated the divergence between dictyostelids and metazoa. While the requirement for retinoblastoma function for BTG antiproliferative activity in metazoans is known, an interaction of these genes in the control of cell fate has not been previously documented. Involvement of a single pathway in the control of mutually exclusive processes may have relevant implication in the evolution of multicellularity.

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