Developmental changes in transcriptional profiles


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Recent advances in quantitation of mRNA by hybridization to microarrayed gene sequences or by deep sequencing of cDNA (RNA-seq) have provided global views of the abundance of each transcript. Analyses of RNA samples taken at 2 or 4 h intervals throughout development of Dictyostelium discoideum have defined the developmental changes in transcriptional profiles. Comparisons of the transcriptome of wild-type cells to that of mutant strains lacking a gene critical to progression through the developmental stages have defined key steps in the progression. The transcriptional response to cAMP pulses depends on the expression of pulse-independent genes that have been identified by transcriptional profiling with microarrays. Similar techniques were used to discover that the DNA binding protein GBF functions in a feed-forward loop to regulate post-aggregation genes and that expression of a set of late genes during culmination is dependent on the DNA binding protein SrfA. RNA-seq is able to reliably measure individual mRNAs present as a single copy per cell as well as mRNAs present at a thousand fold higher abundance. Using this technique it was found that 65% of the genes in Dictyostelium change twofold or more during development. Many decrease during the first 8 h of development, while the rest increase at specific stages and this pattern is evolutionarily conserved as found by comparing the transcriptomes of D. discoideum and Dictyostelium purpureum. The transcriptional profile of each gene is readily available at dictyBase and more sophisticated analyses are available on DictyExpress.