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J Bacteriol. 2004 Feb;186(4):1001-8.

Myxococcus xanthus chemotaxis homologs DifD and DifG negatively regulate fibril polysaccharide production.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA.


The extracellular matrix fibrils of Myxococcus xanthus are essential for the social lifestyle of this unusual bacterium. These fibrils form networks linking or encasing cells and are tightly correlated with cellular cohesion, development, and social (S) gliding motility. Previous studies identified a set of bacterial chemotaxis homologs encoded by the dif locus. It was determined that difA, difC, and difE, encoding respective homologs of a methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein, CheW, and CheA, are required for fibril production and therefore S motility and development. Here we report the studies of three additional genes residing at the dif locus, difB, difD, and difG. difD and difG encode homologs of chemotaxis proteins CheY and CheC, respectively. difB encodes a positively charged protein with limited homology at its N terminus to conserved bacterial proteins with unknown functions. Unlike the previously characterized dif genes, none of these three newly studied dif genes are essential for fibril production, S motility, or development. The difB mutant showed no obvious defects in any of the processes examined. In contrast, the difD and the difG mutants were observed to overproduce fibril polysaccharides in comparison with production by the wild type. The observation that DifD and DifG negatively regulate fibril polysaccharide production strengthens our hypothesis that the M. xanthus dif genes define a chemotaxis-like signal transduction pathway which regulates fibril biogenesis. To our knowledge, this is the first report of functional studies of a CheC homolog in proteobacteria. In addition, during this study, we slightly modified previously developed assays to easily quantify fibril polysaccharide production in M. xanthus.

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