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As time passes, mutations accumulate in the genomes of all living organisms. These changes promote genetic diversity, but also precipitate ageing and the initiation of cancer. Food is a common source of mutagens, but little is known about how nutritional factors cause lasting genetic changes in the consuming organism. Here, we describe an unusual genetic interaction between DNA repair in the unicellular amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum and its natural bacterial food source. We found that Dictyostelium deficient in the DNA repair nuclease Xpf (xpf-) display a severe and specific growth defect when feeding on bacteria. Despite being proficient in the phagocytosis and digestion of bacteria, over time, xpf- Dictyostelium feeding on bacteria cease to grow and in many instances die. The Xpf nuclease activity is required for sustained growth using a bacterial food source. Furthermore, the ingestion of this food source leads to a striking accumulation of mutations in the genome of xpf- Dictyostelium This work therefore establishes Dictyostelium as a model genetic system to dissect nutritional genotoxicity, providing insight into how phagocytosis can induce mutagenesis and compromise survival fitness.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cell Sci

Publication Date





4449 - 4454


DNA repair, Dictyostelium, Mutagenesis, Phagocytosis, Xpf, Amino Acid Sequence, DNA Repair, Dictyostelium, Mutagenesis, Phagocytosis, Protozoan Proteins