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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Apr;40(1):156-68.

C-signal: a cell surface-associated morphogen that induces and co-ordinates multicellular fruiting body morphogenesis and sporulation in Myxococcus xanthus.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark.


In Myxococcus xanthus, morphogenesis of multicellular fruiting bodies and sporulation are co-ordinated temporally and spatially. csgA mutants fail to synthesize the cell surface-associated C-signal and are unable to aggregate and sporulate. We report that csgA encodes two proteins, a 25 kDa species corresponding to full-length CsgA protein and a 17 kDa species similar in size to C-factor protein, which has been shown previously to have C-signal activity. By systematically varying the accumulation of the csgA proteins, we show that overproduction of the csgA proteins results in premature aggregation and sporulation, uncoupling of the two events and the formation of small fruiting bodies, whereas reduced synthesis of the csgA proteins causes delayed aggregation, reduced sporulation and the formation of large fruiting bodies. These results show that C-signal induces aggregation as well as sporulation, and that an ordered increase in the level of C-signalling during development is essential for the spatial co-ordination of these events. The results support a quantitative model, in which aggregation and sporulation are induced at distinct threshold levels of C-signalling. In this model, the two events are temporally co-ordinated by the regulated increase in C-signalling levels during development. The contact-dependent C-signal transmission mechanism allows the spatial co-ordination of aggregation and sporulation by coupling cell position and signalling levels.

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