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J Bacteriol. 2007 Aug;189(15):5675-82. Epub 2007 May 18.

Multicellular development in Myxococcus xanthus is stimulated by predator-prey interactions.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, The University of Iowa, 51 Newton Road, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Myxococcus xanthus is a predatory bacterium that exhibits complex social behavior. The most pronounced behavior is the aggregation of cells into raised fruiting body structures in which cells differentiate into stress-resistant spores. In the laboratory, monocultures of M. xanthus at a very high density will reproducibly induce hundreds of randomly localized fruiting bodies when exposed to low nutrient availability and a solid surface. In this report, we analyze how M. xanthus fruiting body development proceeds in a coculture with suitable prey. Our analysis indicates that when prey bacteria are provided as a nutrient source, fruiting body aggregation is more organized, such that fruiting bodies form specifically after a step-down or loss of prey availability, whereas a step-up in prey availability inhibits fruiting body formation. This localization of aggregates occurs independently of the basal nutrient levels tested, indicating that starvation is not required for this process. Analysis of early developmental signaling relA and asgD mutants indicates that they are capable of forming fruiting body aggregates in the presence of prey, demonstrating that the stringent response and A-signal production are surprisingly not required for the initiation of fruiting behavior. However, these strains are still defective in differentiating to spores. We conclude that fruiting body formation does not occur exclusively in response to starvation and propose an alternative model in which multicellular development is driven by the interactions between M. xanthus cells and their cognate prey.

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