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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Jun;24(5):885-93.

Regulation of directed motility in Myxococcus xanthus.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley 94720, USA.


Myxococcus xanthus is a Gram-negative bacterium that exhibits a complex life cycle. During vegetative growth, cells move as large swarms. However, when starved, cells aggregate into fruiting bodies and sporulate. Both vegetative swarming and developmental aggregation require gliding motility, which involves the slow movement of cells on a solid surface in the absence of flagella. The frequency of cell reversals controls the direction of movement and is regulated by the frz genes, which encode the 'frizzy' signal-transduction proteins. These proteins contain domains which bear striking similarities to the major chemotaxis proteins of the enteric bacteria: CheA, CheY, CheW, CheR, CheB and Tar. However, significant differences exist between the Myxococcus Frz proteins and the enteric Che/MCP proteins. For example, the Frz system contains three CheY-like response-regulator domains: one is present on FrzE, which also contains a CheA-like domain, and two are present on FrzZ, which is a novel protein required for attractant, but not for repellent, responses. The identification of multiple CheY homologues in this system indicates a more complex regulatory pathway than that found in the enteric bacteria. While responses to repellent stimuli appear to follow the enteric paradigm, responses to attractants during vegetative swarming and development are more complex and may involve self-generated autoattractants. The Frz signal-transduction system regulates directed motility in M. xanthus and is essential for controlling both fruiting-body development and vegetative swarming.

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