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J Bacteriol. 1991 Dec;173(23):7625-35.

Upstream gene of the mgl operon controls the level of MglA protein in Myxococcus xanthus.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5307.


The mgl operon contains two open reading frames (ORFs) which are transcribed together. A collection of nonmotile mutants helped to define the downstream ORF as the mglA gene. Single mutations at the mglA locus completely abolish motility. A series of deletion mutations was constructed to determine the role of the upstream ORF (now called mglB). A strain carrying a deletion in mglB and with an intact mglA produces small colonies. The cells are motile, but their rate of swarm spreading is reduced. Measurements of cell movement showed that mglB mutant cells advanced, on average, less than 0.1 cell length in 5 min. The mglB+ cells advanced an average of 1.3 cell lengths in the same time. Extracts of delta mglB cells contain 15 to 20% as much of the 22-kDa MglA protein as do mglB+ cells, as measured in Western immunoblots and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. However, the amount of mgl transcript is the same in the delta mglB mutants as in the mglB+ strain. Heterozygous partial diploids mglB/mglA with the wild-type alleles in trans have normal motility, demonstrating that the largest of the mglB deletions is not polar on mglA. Like other motility defects, a delta mglB mutation alters fruiting body development and sporulation. The mglB mutants delayed aggregation, produced small immature fruiting bodies, and sporulated at 45 to 50% wild-type levels. All aspects of the mglB mutant phenotype are explained by the reduced levels of mglA protein and the assumption that it limits the amount of gliding.

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