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Genes Dev. 1994 Dec 1;8(23):2793-804.

Intercellular C-signaling and the traveling waves of Myxococcus.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305.


Early in their development into fruiting bodies, Myxococcus xanthus cells organize themselves into dense bands that move as trains of traveling waves. C-factor, a 20-kD cell-surface bound protein, is a short-range developmental signal molecule required for these waves. What is the role of C-factor in the wave pattern? It is proposed that oriented collisions between cells initiate C-signaling, which, in turn, causes individual cells to reverse their direction of gliding. Cells would move about one wavelength and then reverse. Several lines of experimental evidence support these proposals: (1) Cells that suffered a mutation in the signal transduction pathway that controls the spontaneous reversal frequency lost the ability to form waves; (2) presentation of developing cells with detergent-solubilized C-factor increased the mean frequency of single cell reversal by three-fold; and (3) fluorescently labeled cells in the waves were tracked, and it was found that they moved and reversed on linear paths along the axis of wave propagation. Similar numbers of cells were found moving in the direction of ripple propagation, and in the reverse direction, as expected. (4) Dilution of C-signaling-competent cells with C-factor-deficient cells increased the wavelength as the probability of productive collision decreased. The waves exemplify a way that a multicellular pattern of stripes can be produced de novo, one that maintains a uniform 50-microns separation between stripes over a distance as large as 1 cm.

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