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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Dec 12;103(50):19128-33. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

The unique DKxanthene secondary metabolite family from the myxobacterium Myxococcus xanthus is required for developmental sporulation.

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  • 1Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Saarland University, P.O. Box 151150, 66041 Saarbrücken, Germany.


Under starvation conditions myxobacteria form multicellular fruiting bodies in which vegetative cells differentiate into heat- and desiccation-resistant myxospores. Myxobacteria in general are a rich source of secondary metabolites that often exhibit biological activities rarely found in nature. Although the involvement of a yellow compound in sporulation and fruiting body formation of Myxococcus xanthus was described almost 30 years ago, the chemical principle of the pigment remained elusive. This work presents the isolation and structure elucidation of a unique class of pigments that were named DKxanthenes (DKX). The corresponding biosynthetic gene cluster was identified, and DKX-negative mutants were constructed to investigate the physiological role of DKX during development. In these mutants, fruiting body formation was delayed. Moreover, severely reduced amounts of viable spores were observed after 120 h of starvation, whereas no viable spores were formed at all after 72 h. The addition of purified DKX to the mutants resulted in the formation of viable spores after 72 h. Even though an antioxidative activity could be assigned to DKX, the true biochemical mechanism underlying the complementation remains to be elucidated.

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