Protists In Research

Research on protists has helped biologists understand a number of fundamental cellular functions, such as cell movement. For example, individual cells of the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoidum move toward a source of AMP, a precursor to the energy-storage molecule ATP. These cells crawl using amoeboid movement, shown in Figure 25-18.

Researchers are interested in learning how Dictyostelium cells can recognize AMP and crawl toward it, a process called chemotaxis. The researchers think that human leukocytes, or white blood cells, also perform chemotaxis as they crawl toward sites of infection. Biologists studying chemotaxis in human leukocytes have found the same proteins and cell movement seen in Dictyostelium cells. This discovery has improved the understanding of how leukocytes protect against disease. Some scientists believe this knowledge may help improve the treatment of diseases, such as cancers.

figure 25-18

Dictyostelium uses amoeboid movement to reach a source of AMP. Understanding how Dictyostelium cells move improves the understanding of how human leukocytes move.

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