How Does an Amoeba Reproduce?

February 14, 2024

In ideal conditions, amoebas reproduce at an astonishing rate. This unicellular life form uses a process called binary fission, in which the parent splits into two daughter cells that have identical genetic material. This is a type of asexual reproduction, which is different from sexual reproduction in multicellular organisms.

Until now, scientists have studied amoebas primarily to understand how the cell cycle works in living organisms. But the amoebas have also given us insights into the complexities of asexual reproduction. A team led by Weizmann Institute of Science researcher Jill Brock recently studied amoebas to see how they reproduce and what happens when the process stalls.

The researchers started with amoebas known as Amoeba proteus, which are commonly found in freshwater environments like ponds and rivers. They found that as an amoeba prepares to divide, its nucleus elongates and DNA replication takes place. At the same time, its cytoplasm—a fluid inside the cell that contains organelles—divides, too. The result is two completely new, fully functioning amoebas.

But this cellular drama isn’t without its challenges. When the amoebas’s division stalls, they remain connected by a narrow tether that can be difficult to sever using normal cleavage mechanisms.

Brock and her team decided to test whether amoebas could re-start the process once it stalled. To do so, they separated amoebas into groups of farmers and non-farmers and let them move across a lab plate. As expected, the farmers produced more daughter amoebas than non-farmers. But the farmers also had fewer sentinel cells, which are cells that help protect against toxic chemicals. The scientists wondered if this would make the farmers more vulnerable to toxic chemicals.


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