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J Bacteriol. 1998 Nov;180(21):5765-8.

Methylation of FrzCD defines a discrete step in the developmental program of Myxococcus xanthus.

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School of Dentistry and Molecular Biology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Myxococcus xanthus is a gram-negative soil bacterium which undergoes fruiting body formation during starvation. The frz signal transduction system has been found to play an important role in this process. FrzCD, a methyl-accepting taxis protein homologue, shows modulated methylation during cellular aggregation, which is thought to be part of an adaptation response to an aggregation signal. In this study, we assayed FrzCD methylation in many known and newly isolated mutants defective in fruiting body formation to determine a possible relationship between the methylation response and fruiting morphology. The results of our analysis indicated that the developmental mutants could be divided into two groups based on their ability to show normal FrzCD methylation during development. Many mutants blocked early in development, i.e., nonaggregating or abnormally aggregating mutants, showed poor FrzCD methylation. The well-characterized asg, bsg, csg, and esg mutants were found to be of this type. The defects in FrzCD methylation of these signaling mutants could be partially rescued by extracellular complementation with wild-type cells or addition of chemicals which restore their fruiting body formation. Mutants blocked in late development, i.e., translucent mounds, showed normal FrzCD methylation. Surprisingly, some mutants blocked in early development also exhibited a normal level of FrzCD methylation. The characterized mutants in this group were found to be defective in social motility. This indicates that FrzCD methylation defines a discrete step in the development of M. xanthus and that social motility mutants are not blocked in these early developmental steps.

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