AbstractThe effect of food supply on the onset of asexual and sexual plasmodium formation in Physarum polycephalum was studied. Asexual differentiation occurs readily in amoebae carrying the matAh mating type allele. The density at which these amoebae begin to differentiate is influenced by the ind locus, which controls the production of a diffusible inducer. The alleles ind‐1 and ind‐2 are known. Strains carring the ind‐1 allele begin plasmodium formation at a low amoebal density (rapid differentiation), while strains carring the ind‐2 allele differentiate at a higher amoebal density (slow differentiation). The onset of differentiation is characteristic of the strain and did not change with a 20‐fold variation in the number of food bacteria available. Sexual differentiation occurs between compatible amoebal strains. For a given pair of amoebal strains the onset of plasmodium formation occurs at a characteristic cell density that is determined by the genetic backgrounds of the strains. The ind locus is one of the genes that influences this cell density. Plasmodia are formed at a lower cell density in crosses involving compatible amoebae carrying the ind‐1 allele than they are in crosses with strains carrying the ind‐2 allele. As was found for asexual differentiation, an approximate 20‐fold variation in the food supply did not affect the initiation of sexual plasmodium formation. These results suggest that in most cases starvation does not trigger the differentiation of amoebae into plasmodia. The time of onset of plasmodium formation is determined largely by genetic factors.

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