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Each species of slime mold has its own specific chemical messenger, which are collectively referred to as acrasins.[1] These chemicals signal that lots of individual cells should move towards each other to form a single large cell or plasmodium. One of the earliest acrasins to be identified was cAMP, found in the species Dictyostelium discoideum by Brian Shaffer[2], which exhibits a complex swirling-pulsating spiral pattern when forming a pseudoplasmodium.[3]

The term acrasin was descriptively named after Acrasia from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene[4], who seduced men against their will and then transformed them into beasts. Acrasia is itself a play on the Greek akrasia that describes loss of free will.


  1. ^ Evidence for the formation of cell aggregates by chemotaxis in the development of the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum - J.T.Bonner and L.J.Savage Journal of Experimental Biology Vol. 106, pp. 1, October (1947) Cell Biology
  2. ^ Aggregation in cellular slime moulds: in vitro isolation of acrasin - B.M.Shaffer Nature Vol. 79, pp. 975, (1953) Cell Biology
  3. ^ Identification of a pterin as the acrasin of the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium lacteum - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences United States Vol. 79, pp. 6270–6274, October (1982) Cell Biology
  4. ^ Hunting Slime Moulds - Adele Conover, Smithsonian Magazine Online (2001)