|Abstract:Dictyostelium discoideum amoebas display colonial multicellularity where starving amoebas aggregate to form migrating slugs and fruiting bodies consisting of spores and three supporting cell types. To resolve the cell signalling mechanism that control sporulation, we use insertional mutagenesis of amoebas transformed with fusion constructs of spore genes and red fluorescent protein. We identified the defective gene in a mutant lacking spore gene expression as the autophagy gene Atg7. Directed knock-out of atg7 and of autophagy genes like atg5 and atg9 yielded a similar phenotype, with lack of viable spores and excessive differentiation of stalk cells. The atg7-, atg5-and atg9-cells were specifically defective in cAMP induction of prespore genes, but showed enhanced cAMP stimulation of prestalk genes at the same developmental stage. The lack of prespore gene induction in the autophagy mutants was not due to deleterious effects of loss of autophagy on known components of the cAMP pathway, such as cAMP receptors and their cAMP-induced phosphorylation and internalization, PKA and the transcription factors SpaA and GbfA, or to lack of NH3 production by proteolysis, which was previously suggested to stimulate the spore pathway. Our continued mutagenesis approach is the most likely to yield the intriguing link between autophagy and prespore gene induction.