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J Bacteriol. 2006 Aug;188(16):5888-95.

Rippling is a predatory behavior in Myxococcus xanthus.

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School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.


Cells of Myxococcus xanthus will, at times, organize their movement such that macroscopic traveling waves, termed ripples, are formed as groups of cells glide together on a solid surface. The reason for this behavior has long been a mystery, but we demonstrate here that rippling is a feeding behavior which occurs when M. xanthus cells make direct contact with either prey or large macromolecules. Rippling has been observed during two fundamentally distinct environmental conditions: (i) starvation-induced fruiting body development and (ii) predation of other organisms. Our results indicate that case (i) does not occur in all wild-type strains and is dependent on the intrinsic level of autolysis. Analysis of predatory rippling indicates that rippling behavior is inducible during predation on proteobacteria, gram-positive bacteria, yeast (such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae), and phage. Predatory efficiency decreases under genetic and physiological conditions in which rippling is inhibited. Rippling will also occur in the presence of purified macromolecules such as peptidoglycan, protein, and nucleic acid but does not occur in the presence of the respective monomeric components and also does not occur when the macromolecules are physically separated from M. xanthus cells. We conclude that rippling behavior is a mechanism utilized to efficiently consume nondiffusing growth substrates and that developmental rippling is a result of scavenging lysed cell debris.

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