Biological oscillations are observed at many levels of cellular organization. In the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, starvation-triggered multicellular development is organized by periodic cyclic adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate (cAMP) waves, which provide both chemoattractant gradients and developmental signals. We report that GtaC, a GATA transcription factor, exhibits rapid nucleocytoplasmic shuttling in response to cAMP waves. This behavior requires coordinated action of a nuclear localization signal and reversible G protein (heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide-binding protein)-coupled receptor-mediated phosphorylation. Although both are required for developmental gene expression, receptor occupancy promotes nuclear exit of GtaC, which leads to a transient burst of transcription at each cAMP cycle. We demonstrate that this biological circuit filters out high-frequency signals and counts those admitted, thereby enabling cells to modulate gene expression according to the dynamic pattern of the external stimuli.
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