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PLoS Genet. 2016 Oct 20;12(10):e1006387. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006387. eCollection 2016 Oct.

Genetic Analysis of Collective Motility of Paenibacillus sp. NAIST15-1.

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Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science & Technology, Ikoma, Japan.
NODAI Genome Research Center, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Setagaya-ku, Japan.
Department of Bioscience, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Setagaya-ku, Japan.


Bacteria have developed various motility mechanisms to adapt to a variety of solid surfaces. A rhizosphere isolate, Paenibacillus sp. NAIST15-1, exhibited unusual motility behavior. When spotted onto 1.5% agar media, Paenibacillus sp. formed many colonies, each of which moved around actively at a speed of 3.6 μm/sec. As their density increased, each moving colony began to spiral, finally forming a static round colony. Despite its unusual motility behavior, draft genome sequencing revealed that both the composition and organization of flagellar genes in Paenibacillus sp. were very similar to those in Bacillus subtilis. Disruption of flagellar genes and flagellar stator operons resulted in loss of motility. Paenibacillus sp. showed increased transcription of flagellar genes and hyperflagellation on hard agar media. Thus, increased flagella and their rotation drive Paenibacillus sp. motility. We also identified a large extracellular protein, CmoA, which is conserved only in several Paenibacillus and related species. A cmoA mutant could neither form moving colonies nor move on hard agar media; however, motility was restored by exogenous CmoA. CmoA was located around cells and enveloped cell clusters. Comparison of cellular behavior between the wild type and cmoA mutant indicated that extracellular CmoA is involved in drawing water out of agar media and/or smoothing the cell surface interface. This function of CmoA probably enables Paenibacillus sp. to move on hard agar media.

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