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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Feb;83(3):486-505. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2011.07944.x. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Spore formation in Myxococcus xanthus is tied to cytoskeleton functions and polysaccharide spore coat deposition.

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Department of Ecophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany.


Myxococcus xanthus is a Gram-negative bacterium that differentiates into environmentally resistant spores. Spore differentiation involves septation-independent remodelling of the rod-shaped vegetative cell into a spherical spore and deposition of a thick and compact spore coat outside of the outer membrane. Our analyses suggest that spore coat polysaccharides are exported to the cell surface by the Exo outer membrane polysaccharide export/polysaccharide co-polymerase 2a (OPX/PCP-2a) machinery. Conversion of the capsule-like polysaccharide layer into a compact spore coat layer requires the Nfs proteins which likely form a complex in the cell envelope. Mutants in either nfs, exo or two other genetic loci encoding homologues of polysaccharide synthesis enzymes fail to complete morphogenesis from rods to spherical spores and instead produce a transient state of deformed cell morphology before reversion into typical rods. We additionally provide evidence that the cell cytoskeletal protein, MreB, plays an important role in rod to spore morphogenesis and for spore outgrowth. These studies provide evidence that this novel Gram-negative differentiation process is tied to cytoskeleton functions and polysaccharide spore coat deposition.

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