Each species of slime mold has its own specific chemical messenger, which are collectively referred to as acrasins.[1] These chemicals signal that many individual cells aggregate to form a single large cell or plasmodium.[1] 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.


Methodology for the successful Chemical extraction of Acrasin was first described by Brian Shaffer[2] in 1954 during his tenure at Princeton University in 1954. This involves the pouring of cold methanol over culture plates in which the aggregation of amoebas is general. This was dried in a vacuum at- 10 °C, and the residue was extracted with a small volume of methanol, which was then filtered and once again dried. The resultant product contains high acrasin activity. Schaffer confirmed the stability of the product by exposure to boiling temperature, as well as strong acids and bases.


  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)


  1. ^ King, Robert C. (2013). A dictionary of genetics. Mulligan, Pamela Khipple, 1953-, Stansfield, William D., 1930- (8th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-937686-5. OCLC 871046520.
  2. ^ Shaffer, B. M. (1956-06-29). "Properties of acrasin". Science. 123 (3209): 1172–1173. Bibcode:1956Sci...123.1172S. doi:10.1126/science.123.3209.1172. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 13337336.