In association with their mechanisms of self/non-self recognition (known as mating type systems), ciliates synthesize and constitutively secrete cell type-specific proteins into their extracellular medium. These proteins, designated as pheromones, have been isolated from species of Euplotes and shown to be members of families of structurally homologous molecules, all rich in intra-chain disulfide bonds and organized exclusively in helical conformation. Due to their similar architectures, they can interact with their membrane receptors in competition with one another and bind effectively to their cells of origin in autocrine fashion, or to other co-specific cells in paracrine fashion. In the former case, they promote the vegetative cell growth; in the latter, they induce cells to temporarily arrest their growth stage and shift to a mating (sexual) stage. These varied, context-dependent activities of ciliate pheromones imply an early evolution of basic properties of animal growth factors and cytokines in the unicellular eukaryotes.
Keywords: Chemical signals, protein families, growth factors, protein structure, protozoa, eukaryotic microbiology
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport