Chemotactic responses of eukaryotic cells require a signal processing system that translates an external gradient of attractant into directed motion. To challenge the response system to its limits, we increased the size of Dictyostelium discoideum cells by using electric-pulse-induced fusion. Large cells formed multiple protrusions at different sites along the gradient of chemoattractant, independently turned towards the gradient and competed with each other. Finally, these cells succeeded to re-establish polarity by coordinating front and tail activities. To analyse the responses, we combined two approaches, one aimed at local responses by visualising the dynamics of Ras activation at the front regions of reorientating cells, the other at global changes of polarity by monitoring front-to-tail-directed actin flow. Asymmetric Ras activation in turning protrusions underscores that gradients can be sensed locally and translated into orientation. Different to cells of normal size, the polarity of large cells is not linked to an increasing front-to-tail gradient of the PIP3-phosphatase PTEN. But even in large cells, the front communicates with the tail through an actin flow that might act as carrier of a protrusion inhibitor.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
M.L. performed experiments and evaluated the results, J.P. and M.E. analysed data, and A.M.-T. made the fluorescent protein constructs. G.G. designed the research project and wrote the paper.
G.G. thanks the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft for support; and A.M.-T. the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for grants to the SFB 914, TP7.
Supplementary information available online at http://jcs.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jcs.191148.supplemental
- Received April 18, 2016.
- Accepted August 1, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd