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Myxobacteria: moving, killing, feeding, and surviving together

By José eMuñoz-Dorado, Francisco Javier eMarcos-Torres, Elena eGarcía-Bravo, Aurelio eMoraleda-Muñoz and Juana ePérez


Myxococcus xanthus, like other myxobacteria, is a social bacterium that moves and feeds cooperatively in predatory groups. On surfaces, rod-shaped vegetative cells move in search of the prey in a coordinated manner, forming dynamic multicellular groups referred to as swarms. Within the swarms, cells interact with one another and use two separate locomotion systems. Adventurous motility, which drives the movement of individual cells, is associated with the secretion of slime that forms trails at the leading edge of the swarms. It has been proposed that cellular traffic along these trails contributes to M. xanthus social behavior via stigmergic regulation. However, most of the cells travel in groups by using social motility, which is cell contact-dependent and requires a large number of individuals. Exopolysaccharides and the retraction of type IV pili at alternate poles of the cells are the engines associated with social motility. When the swarms encounter prey, the population of M. xanthus lyses and takes up nutrients from nearby cells. This cooperative and highly density-dependent feeding behavior has the advantage that the pool of hydrolytic enzymes and other secondary metabolites secreted by the entire group is shared by the community to optimize the use of the degradation products. This multicellular behavior is especially observed in the absence of nutrients. In this condition, M. xanthus swarms have the ability to organize the gliding movements of thousands of rods, synchronizing rippling waves of oscillating cells, to form macroscopic fruiting bodies, with three subpopulations of cells showing division of labor. A small fraction of cells either develop into resistant myxospores or remain as peripheral rods, while the majority of cells die, probably to provide nutrients to allow aggregation and spore differentiation. Sporulation within multicellular fruiting bodies has the benefit of enabling survival in hostile environments, and increases germination and growth rates when cells encounter favorable conditions. Herein we review how these social bacteria cooperate and review the main cell-cell signaling systems used for communication to maintain multicellularity

Topics: Myxococcus xanthus, motility, predation, multicellularity, prokaryotic development, Microbiology, QR1-502
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00781
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