The csgA gene produces an intercellular signal during fruiting body formation of the myxobacterium Myxococcus xanthus. Sporulating pseudorevertants were isolated to allow us to understand the mechanism by which CsgA is perceived by cells and used to regulate developmental gene expression. Two strains, LS559 and LS560, which have closely linked transposon insertions, soc-559 (formerly csp-559) and soc-560 (formerly csp-560), respectively, regained all the developmental behaviors lost by the csgA mutation including the ability to ripple, form fruiting bodies, and sporulate. The sequence analysis of the socA locus revealed that there are three putative protein-coding regions, designated socA1, socA2, and socA3. The deduced amino acid sequence of socA1 exhibits characteristics of the short-chain alcohol dehydrogenase family. The deduced amino acid sequence of socA2 shares 48% identity with the frdD gene product of the frd operon in Proteus vulgaris which anchors fumarate reductase to the membrane. The deduced amino acid sequence of socA3 does not show homology to any known proteins. Genotypic complementation, Northern (RNA) blotting, DNA sequence analysis, and the pattern of gene expression all suggest that these three genes are polycistronic. Since the socA mutations effectively bypass CsgA, the question of why csgA is maintained in M. xanthus was examined by studying the long-term stability of socA spores. Unlike the wild type, socA mutant spores germinated on starvation agar. Transmission electron micrographs of spore thin sections revealed that germination is not due to an obvious structural deficiency of the socA spores. These results suggest that the ability of socA myxospores to survive long periods under unfavorable environmental conditions is severely comprised. Therefore, soxA appears to be essential for the development of M. xanthus
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