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Microbiology. 2012 Nov;158(Pt 11):2742-52. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.060343-0. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

Predatory activity of Myxococcus xanthus outer-membrane vesicles and properties of their hydrolase cargo.

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Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3DD, UK.


The deltaproteobacterium Myxococcus xanthus predates upon members of the soil microbial community by secreting digestive factors and lysing prey cells. Like other Gram-negative bacteria, M. xanthus produces outer membrane vesicles (OMVs), and we show here that M. xanthus OMVs are able to kill Escherichia coli cells. The OMVs of M. xanthus were found to contain active proteases, phosphatases, other hydrolases and secondary metabolites. Alkaline phosphatase activity was found to be almost exclusively associated with OMVs, implying that there is active targeting of phosphatases into OMVs, while other OMV components appear to be packaged passively. The kinetic properties of OMV alkaline phosphatase suggest that there may have been evolutionary adaptation of OMV enzymes to a relatively indiscriminate mode of action, consistent with a role in predation. In addition, the observed regulation of production, and fragility of OMV activity, may protect OMV-producing cells from exploitation by M. xanthus cheating genotypes and/or other competitors. Killing of E. coli by M. xanthus OMVs was enhanced by the addition of a fusogenic enzyme (glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; GAPDH), which triggers fusion of vesicles with target membranes within eukaryotic cells. This suggests that the mechanism of prey killing involves OMV fusion with the E. coli outer membrane. M. xanthus secretes GAPDH, which could potentially modulate the fusion of co-secreted OMVs with prey organisms in nature, enhancing their predatory activity.

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