xanthusBase () is the official model organism database (MOD) for the social bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. In many respects, M.xanthus represents the pioneer model organism (MO) for studying the genetic, biochemical, and mechanistic basis of prokaryotic multicellularity, a topic that has garnered considerable attention due to the significance of biofilms in both basic and applied microbiology research. To facilitate its utility, the design of xanthusBase incorporates open-source software, leveraging the cumulative experience made available through the Generic Model Organism Database (GMOD) project, MediaWiki (), and dictyBase (), to create a MOD that is both highly useful and easily navigable. In addition, we have incorporated a unique Wikipedia-style curation model which exploits the internet's inherent interactivity, thus enabling M.xanthus and other myxobacterial researchers to contribute directly toward the ongoing genome annotation.
As a monophyletic group, the myxobacteria are known to produce a broad spectrum of secondary metabolites. However, the degree of metabolic diversity that can be found within a single species remains unexplored. The model species Myxococcus xanthus produces several metabolites also present in other myxobacterial species, but only one compound unique to M. xanthus has been found to date. Here, we compare the metabolite profiles of 98 M. xanthus strains that originate from 78 locations worldwide and include 20 centimeter-scale isolates from one location. This screen reveals a strikingly high level of intraspecific diversity in the M. xanthus secondary metabolome. The identification of 37 nonubiquitous candidate compounds greatly exceeds the small number of secondary metabolites previously known to derive from this species. These results suggest that M. xanthus may be a promising source of future natural products and that thorough intraspecific screens of other species could reveal many new compounds of interest.
Plasmids with the aadA gene from plasmid R100, which confers resistance to the aminoglycosides spectinomycin and streptomycin in Escherchia coli, can be introduced into wild-type Myxococcus xanthus, strain DK1622, by electroporation. Recombinant M. xanthus strains with integrated plasmids carrying the aadA gene acquire resistance to high levels of these antibiotics. Selection for aadA in M. xanthus can be carried out independently of, or simultaneously with, selection for resistance to kanamycin. The kinds and frequencies of recombination events observed between integrative plasmids with aadA and the M. xanthus chromosome are similar to those observed after the transformation of yeast. Cleavage of integrative plasmid DNA at a site adjacent to a region of homology between the plasmid and the M. xanthus genome favors the targeted disruption of M. xanthus genes by allele replacement.
To determine the evolutional relationship of bacterial retroelements of Myxococcus xanthus and Stigmatella aurantiaca, the nucleotide sequence of 3,060 bases encompassing msr, msd, and the upstream region of msd (downstream of msr) of S. aurantiaca DW4 was determined and compared with the same region from M. xanthus. An open reading frame was found 92 bases upstream of msd which encoded a polypeptide of 480 amino acid residues having 73% identity with the reverse transcriptase of M. xanthus. Together with high homologies in msr (86%) and msd (81%) regions, the present data indicate that the reverse transcriptase genes as well as the retrons of M. xanthus (retron-Mx162) and S. aurantiaca (retron-Sa163) were derived from a common progenitor retron which possibly before the two myxobacterial species diverged.
Voelz, Herbert (Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis) and Martin Dworkin. Fine structure of Myxococcus xanthus during morphogenesis. J. Bacteriol. 84:943–952. 1962.—This investigation concerns the nature of the structural changes in Myxococcus xanthus during cellular morphogenesis. These changes have been investigated by means of electromicrographs of thin sections of cells taken during various stages of the life cycle. The conversion of vegetative cells to microcysts involves the formation of a capsule but no drastic reorganization of the limiting cell membranes. Vacuoles appear in the cell during microcyst formation and germination. Microcyst germination involves a separation of the inner cell and the outer sheath, followed by the dissolution of a segment of the outer sheath and the emergence of the cell. Dense bodies within the cytoplasm and peripheral bodies between the two limiting membranes have been observed.
Myxococcus xanthus social (S) gliding motility has been previously reported by us to require the chemotaxis homologues encoded by the dif genes. In addition, two cell surface structures, type IV pili and extracellular matrix fibrils, are also critical to M. xanthus S motility. We have demonstrated here that M. xanthus dif genes are required for the biogenesis of fibrils but not for that of type IV pili. Furthermore, the developmental defects of dif mutants can be partially rescued by the addition of isolated fibril materials. Along with the chemotaxis genes of various swarming bacteria and the pilGHIJ genes of the twitching bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the M. xanthus dif genes belong to a unique class of bacterial chemotaxis genes or homologues implicated in the biogenesis of structures required for bacterial surface locomotion. Genetic studies indicate that the dif genes are linked to the M. xanthus dsp region, a locus known to be crucial for M. xanthus fibril biogenesis and S gliding.
Exopolysaccharide (EPS) of Myxococcus xanthus is a well-regulated cell surface component. In addition to its known functions for social motility and fruiting body formation on solid surfaces, EPS has also been proposed to play a role in multi-cellular clumping in liquid medium, though this phenomenon has not been well studied. In this report, we confirmed that M. xanthus clumps formed in liquid were correlated with EPS levels and demonstrated that the EPS encased cell clumps exhibited biofilm-like structures. The clumps protected the cells at physiologically relevant EPS concentrations, while cells lacking EPS exhibited significant reduction in long-term viability and resistance to stressful conditions. However, excess EPS production was counterproductive to vegetative growth and viable cell recovery declined in extended late stationary phase as cells became trapped in the matrix of clumps. Therefore, optimal EPS production by M. xanthus is important for normal physiological functions in liquid.
Myxococcus xanthus; exopolysaccharide; vegetative growth; stress survival; stationary phase recovery
Bacterial sporulation in Gram-positive bacteria results in small acid-soluble proteins called SASPs that bind to DNA and prevent the damaging effects of UV radiation. Orthologs of Bacillus subtilis genes encoding SASPs can be found in many sporulating and nonsporulating bacteria, but they are noticeably absent from spore-forming, Gram-negative Myxococcus xanthus. This is despite the fact that M. xanthus can form UV-resistant spores. Here we report evidence that M. xanthus produces its own unique group of low-molecular-weight, acid-soluble proteins that facilitate UV resistance in spores. These M. xanthus-specific SASPs vary depending upon whether spore formation is induced by starvation inside cell aggregations of fruiting bodies or is induced artificially by glycerol induction. Molecular predictions indicate that M. xanthus SASPs may have some association with the cell walls of M. xanthus spores, which may signify a different mechanism of UV protection than that seen in Gram-positive spores.
As prokaryotic models for multicellular development, Stigmatellaaurantiaca and Myxococcus xanthus share many similarities in terms of social behaviors, such as gliding motility. Our current understanding of myxobacterial grouped-cell motilities comes mainly from the research on M. xanthus, which shows that filamentous type IV pili (TFP), composed of type IV pilin (also called PilA protein) subunits, are the key apparatus for social motility (S-motility). However, little is known about the pilin protein in S. aurantiaca. We cloned and sequenced four genes (pilASa1~4) from S. aurantiaca DSM17044 that are homologous to pilAMx (pilA gene in M. xanthus DK1622). The homology and similarities among PilASa proteins and other myxobacterial homologues were systematically analyzed. To determine their potential biological functions, the four pilASa genes were expressed in M. xanthus DK10410 (ΔpilAMx), which did not restore S-motility on soft agar or EPS production to host cells. After further analysis of the motile behaviors in a methylcellulose solution, the M. xanthus strains were categorized into three types. YL6101, carrying pilASa1, and YL6104, carrying pilASa4, produced stable but unretractable surface pili; YL6102, carrying pilASa2, produced stable surface pili and exhibited reduced TFP-dependent motility in methylcellulose; YL6103, carrying pilASa3, produced unstable surface pili. Based on these findings, we propose that pilASa2 might be responsible for the type IV pilin production involved in group motility in S. aurantiaca DSM17044. After examining the developmental processes, it was suggested that the expression of PilASa4 protein might have positive effects on the fruiting body formation of M. xanthus DK10410 cells. Moreover, the formation of fruiting body in M. xanthus cells with stable exogenous TFPSa were compensated by mixing them with S. aurantiaca DSM17044 cells. Our results shed some light on the features and functions of type IV pilin homologues in S. aurantiaca.
Twenty-eight myxobacterial strains, representing members from all three subgroups, were screened for the presence of retron elements, which are novel prokaryotic retroelements encoding reverse transcriptase. The presence of retrons was determined by assaying strains for a small satellite DNA produced by reverse transcription called multicopy, single-stranded DNA (msDNA). An msDNA-producing retron appeared to be absent from only one of the strains surveyed. DNA hybridization experiments revealed that retron elements similar to retron Mx162, first identified in Myxococcus xanthus, were found only among members of the Myxococcus subgroup; that is, each of the seven different genera which constitute this subgroup contained a Mx162 homolog. Another retron element also appeared to have a clustered distribution, being found exclusively within the Nannocystis subgroup of the myxobacteria. A retron element of the Mx162 type was cloned from Melittangium lichenicola, and its DNA sequence was compared with those of similar elements in M. xanthus and Stigmatella aurantiaca. Together, the degree of sequence diversity, the codon bias of the reverse transcriptase genes, and the clustered distribution of these retrons suggest a possible evolutionary scenario in which a common ancestor of the Myxococcus subgroup may have acquired this retroelement.
The phenomenon of phase variation between yellow and tan forms of Myxococcus xanthus has been recognized for several decades, but it is not known what role this variation may play in the ecology of myxobacteria. We confirm an earlier report that tan variants are disproportionately more numerous in the resulting spore population of a M. xanthus fruiting body than the tan vegetative cells that contributed to fruiting body formation. However, we found that tan cells may not require yellow cells for fruiting body formation or starvation-induced sporulation of tan cells. Here we report three differences between the yellow and tan variants that may play important roles in the soil ecology of M. xanthus. Specifically, the yellow variant is more capable of forming biofilms, is more sensitive to lysozyme, and is more resistant to ingestion by bacteriophagous nematodes. We also show that the myxobacterial fruiting body is more resistant to predation by worms than are dispersed M. xanthus cells.
Myxococcus xanthus is a gram-negative bacterium that develops in response to starvation on a solid surface. The cells assemble into multicellular aggregates in which they differentiate from rod-shaped cells into spherical, environmentally resistant spores. Previously, we have shown that the induction of β-lactamase is associated with starvation-independent sporulation in liquid culture (K. A. O’Connor and D. R. Zusman, Mol. Microbiol. 24:839–850, 1997). In this paper, we show that the chromosomally encoded β-lactamase of M. xanthus is autogenously induced during development. The specific activity of the enzyme begins to increase during aggregation, before spores are detectable. The addition of inducers of β-lactamase in M. xanthus, such as ampicillin, d-cycloserine, and phosphomycin, accelerates the onset of aggregation and sporulation in developing populations of cells. In addition, the exogenous induction of β-lactamase allows M. xanthus to fruit on media containing concentrations of nutrients that are normally too high to support development. We propose that the induction of β-lactamase is an integral step in the development of M. xanthus and that this induction is likely to play a role in aggregation and in the restructuring of peptidoglycan which occurs during the differentiation of spores. In support of this hypothesis, we show that exogenous induction of β-lactamase can rescue aggregation and sporulation of certain mutants. Fruiting body spores from a rescued mutant are indistinguishable from wild-type fruiting body spores when examined by transmission electron microscopy. These results show that the signal transduction pathway leading to the induction of β-lactamase plays an important role in aggregation and sporulation in M. xanthus.
Genetic analysis of Myxococcus xanthus is greatly facilitated by the ability to introduce cloned DNA into M. xanthus to generate gene replacement and merodiploid strains. However, gene replacement strains are difficult to obtain when the region(s) of homology between the cloned DNA and the M. xanthus chromosome is limited (less than 1 kilobase). We found that gene replacements can be obtained at an increased frequency by a two-step procedure involving the use of bacteriophage P1 to isolate merodiploid strains followed by generalized transduction to another M. xanthus strain by using phage Mx4.
Mx8 is a generalized transducing phage that infects Myxococcus xanthus cells. This phage is lysogenized in M. xanthus cells by the integration of its DNA into the host chromosome through site-specific recombination. Here, we characterize the mechanism of Mx8 integration into the M. xanthus chromosome. The Mx8 attachment site, attP, the M. xanthus chromosome attachment site, attB, and two phage-host junctions, attL and attR, were cloned and sequenced. Sequence alignments of attP, attB, attL, and attR sites revealed a 29-bp segment that is absolutely conserved in all four sequences. The intP gene of Mx8 was found to encode a basic protein that has 533 amino acids and that carries two domains conserved in site-specific recombinases of the integrase family. Surprisingly, the attP site was located within the coding sequence of the intP gene. Hence, the integration of Mx8 into the M. xanthus chromosome results in the conversion of the intP gene to a new gene designated intR. As a result of this conversion, the 112-residue C-terminal sequence of the intP protein is replaced with a 13-residue sequence. A 3-base deletion within the C-terminal region had no effect on Mx8 integration into the chromosome, while a frameshift mutation with the addition of 1 base at the same site blocked integration activity. This result indicates that the C-terminal region is required for the enzymatic function of the intP product.
Myxobacterial hemagglutinin (MBHA) is a major developmentally induced protein that accumulates during the period of cellular aggregation of the fruiting bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. In this study, DNA sequences mediating the transcriptional regulation of mbhA have been identified. Examination of nucleotide sequences upstream of the start site for mbhA transcription has indicated a region of DNA that bears strong homology to the consensus sequence for promoters recognized by the sigma 54 holoenzyme form of RNA polymerase of Escherichia coli and other eubacteria. Deletion of this sequence completely abolished mbhA transcription. Additionally, a cis-acting DNA element, affecting the efficiency of mbhA transcription, has been mapped within a region of DNA 89 to 276 nucleotides upstream of the sigma 54-like sequence. Transposon insertions, mapping within the cis element, drastically reduced mbhA transcriptional activity. These observations suggest that transcription of mbhA requires a productive interaction between a form of RNA polymerase that recognizes a sigma 54-like sequence and a transcriptional activator that binds to DNA sequences upstream of the mbhA promoter.
Chemosensory systems (CSS) are complex regulatory pathways capable of perceiving external signals and translating them into different cellular behaviors such as motility and development. In the δ-proteobacterium Myxococcus xanthus, chemosensing allows groups of cells to orient themselves and aggregate into specialized multicellular biofilms termed fruiting bodies. M. xanthus contains eight predicted CSS and 21 chemoreceptors. In this work, we systematically deleted genes encoding components of each CSS and chemoreceptors and determined their effects on M. xanthus social behaviors. Then, to understand how the 21 chemoreceptors are distributed among the eight CSS, we examined their phylogenetic distribution, genomic organization and subcellular localization. We found that, in vivo, receptors belonging to the same phylogenetic group colocalize and interact with CSS components of the respective phylogenetic group. Finally, we identified a large chemosensory module formed by three interconnected CSS and multiple chemoreceptors and showed that complex behaviors such as cell group motility and biofilm formation require regulatory apparatus composed of multiple interconnected Che-like systems.
Myxococcus xanthus is a social bacterium that exhibits a complex life cycle including biofilm formation, microbial predation and the formation of multicellular fruiting bodies. Genomic analyses indicate that M. xanthus produces an unusual number of chemosensory proteins: eight chemosensory systems (CSS) and 21 chemoreceptors, 13 of which are orphans located outside operons. In this paper we used genetic, phylogenetic and cell biology techniques to analyze the organization of the chemoreceptors and their functions in the regulation of M. xanthus social behaviors. Results indicate the existence of one large and three small chemosensory modules that occupy different positions within cells. This organization is consistent with in vivo protein interaction assays. Our analyses revealed the presence of a complex network of regulators that might integrate different stimuli to modulate bacterial social behaviors. Such networks might be conserved in other bacterial species with a life cycle of similar complexity and whose genome carries multiple CSS encoding operons.
Myxococcus xanthus fibril exopolysaccharide (EPS), essential for the social gliding motility and development of this bacterium, is regulated by the Dif chemotaxis-like pathway. DifA, an MCP homolog, is proposed to mediate signal input to the Dif pathway. However, DifA lacks a prominent periplasmic domain, which in classical chemoreceptors is responsible for signal perception and for initiating transmembrane signaling. To investigate the signaling properties of DifA, we constructed a NarX-DifA (NafA) chimera from the sensory module of Escherichia coli NarX and the signaling module of M. xanthus DifA. We report here the first functional chimeric signal transducer constructed using genes from organisms in two different phylogenetic subdivisions. When expressed in M. xanthus, NafA restored fruiting body formation, EPS production, and S-motility to difA mutants in the presence of nitrate. Studies with various double mutants indicate that NafA requires the downstream Dif proteins to function. We propose that signal inputs to the Dif pathway and transmembrane signaling by DifA are essential for the regulation of EPS production in M. xanthus. Despite the apparent structural differences, DifA appears to share similar transmembrane signaling mechanisms with enteric sensor kinases and chemoreceptors.
Myxococcus xanthus, a Gram-negative soil bacterium, undergoes multicellular development when nutrients become limiting. Aggregation, which is part of the developmental process, requires the surface motility of this organism. One component of M. xanthus motility, the social (S) gliding motility, enables the movement of cells in close physical proximity. Previous studies demonstrated that the cell-surface associated exopolysaccharide (EPS) is essential for S motility and the Dif proteins form a chemotaxis-like pathway that regulates EPS production in M. xanthus. DifA, a homologue of methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins (MCPs) in the Dif system, is required for EPS production, S motility and development. In this study, a spontaneous extragenic suppressor of a difA deletion was isolated in order to identify additional regulators of EPS production. The suppressor mutation was found to be a single base-pair insertion in cheW7 at the che7 chemotaxis gene cluster. Further examination indicated that mutations in cheW7 may lead to the interaction of Mcp7 with DifC (CheW-like) and DifE (CheA-like) to reconstruct a functional pathway to regulate EPS production in the absence of DifA. In addition, the cheW7 mutation was found to partially suppress a pilA mutation in EPS production in a difA+ background. Further deletion of difA from the pilA cheW7 double mutant resulted in a triple mutant that produced wild-type levels of EPS, implying that DifA (MCP-like) and Mcp7 compete for interactions with DifC and DifE in the modulation of EPS production.
Myxococcus xanthus, a Gram-negative soil bacterium, undergoes multicellular development when nutrients become limiting. Aggregation, which is part of the developmental process, requires the surface motility of this organism. One component of M. xanthus motility, the social (S) gliding motility, enables the movement of cells in close physical proximity. Previous studies demonstrated that the cell surface-associated exopolysaccharide (EPS) is essential for S motility and that the Dif proteins form a chemotaxis-like pathway that regulates EPS production in M. xanthus. DifA, a homologue of methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins (MCPs) in the Dif system, is required for EPS production, S motility and development. In this study, a spontaneous extragenic suppressor of a difA deletion was isolated in order to identify additional regulators of EPS production. The suppressor mutation was found to be a single base pair insertion in cheW7 at the che7 chemotaxis gene cluster. Further examination indicated that mutations in cheW7 may lead to the interaction of Mcp7 with DifC (CheW-like) and DifE (CheA-like) to reconstruct a functional pathway to regulate EPS production in the absence of DifA. In addition, the cheW7 mutation was found to partially suppress a pilA mutation in EPS production in a difA+ background. Further deletion of difA from the pilA cheW7 double mutant resulted in a triple mutant that produced wild-type levels of EPS, implying that DifA (MCP-like) and Mcp7 compete for interactions with DifC and DifE in the modulation of EPS production.
Myxococcus xanthus is a soil-dwelling member of the δ–Proteobacteria that exhibits a complex developmental cycle upon starvation. Development comprises aggregation and differentiation into environmentally resistant myxospores in an environment that includes fluctuations in metal ion concentrations. While copper is essential for M. xanthus cells because several housekeeping enzymes use it as a cofactor, high copper concentrations are toxic. These opposing effects force cells to maintain a tight copper homeostasis. A plethora of paralogous genes involved in copper detoxification, all of which are differentially regulated, have been reported in M. xanthus. The use of in-frame deletion mutants and fusions with the reporter gene lacZ has allowed the identification of a two-component system, CorSR, that modulates the expression of an operon termed curA consisting of nine genes whose expression slowly increases after metal addition, reaching a plateau. Transcriptional regulation of this operon is complex because transcription can be initiated at different promoters and by different types of regulators. These genes confer copper tolerance during growth and development. Copper induces carotenoid production in a ΔcorSR mutant at lower concentrations than with the wild-type strain due to lack of expression of a gene product resembling subunit III of cbb3-type cytochrome c oxidase. This data may explain why copper induces carotenoid biosynthesis at suboptimal rather than optimal growth conditions in wild-type strains.
Social interactions among microbes that engage in cooperative behaviours are well studied in laboratory contexts [1, 2], but little is known about the scales at which initially cooperative microbes diversify into socially conflicting genotypes in nature. The predatory soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus responds to starvation by cooperatively forming multi-cellular fruiting bodies in which a portion of the population differentiates into stress-resistant spores [3, 4]. Natural M. xanthus populations are spatially structured  and genetically divergent isolates from distant origins exhibit striking developmental antagonisms that decrease spore production in chimaeric fruiting bodies . Here we show that genetically similar isolates of M. xanthus from a centimeter-scale population  also exhibit strong and pervasive antagonisms when mixed in development. Negative responses to chimerism were less intense, on average, among local strains than among global isolates, although no significant correlation was found between genetic distance at multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) loci and the degree of social asymmetry between competitors. A test for self/non-self discrimination during vegetative swarming revealed a great diversity of distinct self-recognition types even among identical MLST genotypes. Such non-self exclusion may serve to direct the benefits of cooperation to close kin within diverse populations in which the probability of social conflict among neighbours is high.
Myxococcus xanthus; social development; cooperation; kin discrimination
The soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus is a model for the study of cooperative microbial behaviours such as social motility and fruiting body formation. Several M. xanthus developmental traits that are frequently quantified for laboratory strains are likely to be significant components of fitness in natural populations, yet little is known about the degree such traits vary in the wild and may therefore be subject to natural selection. Here we have tested whether several key M. xanthus developmental life-history traits have diverged significantly among strains both from globally distant origins and from within a sympatric, cm-scale population. The isolates examined here were found to vary greatly, in a heritable manner, in their rate of developmental aggregation and in both their rate and efficiency of spore production. Isolates also varied in the nutrient concentration threshold triggering spore formation and in the heat resistance of spores. The extensive diversity in developmental phenotypes documented here opens questions regarding the relative roles of selection and genetic drift in shaping the diversity of local soil populations with respect to these developmental traits. It also raises the question whether fitness in the wild is largely determined by traits that are expressed independently of social context or by behaviors that are expressed only in genetically heterogeneous social groups.
social evolution; intra-specific variation; soil bacteria; fruiting bodies; multicellular development
Predator-prey interactions presumably play major roles in shaping the composition and dynamics of microbial communities. However, little is understood about the population biology of such interactions or how predation-related parameters vary or correlate across prey environments. Myxococcus xanthus is a motile soil bacterium that feeds on a broad range of other soil microbes that vary greatly in the degree to which they support M. xanthus growth. In order to decompose predator-prey interactions at the population level, we quantified five predation-related parameters during M. xanthus growth on nine phylogenetically diverse bacterial prey species. The horizontal expansion rate of swarming predator colonies fueled by prey lawns served as our measure of overall predatory performance, as it incorporates both the searching (motility) and handling (killing and consumption of prey) components of predation. Four other parameters – predator population growth rate, maximum predator yield, maximum prey kill, and overall rate of prey death – were measured from homogeneously mixed predator-prey lawns from which predator populations were not allowed to expand horizontally by swarming motility. All prey species fueled predator population growth. For some prey, predator-specific prey death was detected contemporaneously with predator population growth, whereas killing of other prey species was detected only after cessation of predator growth. All four of the alternative parameters were found to correlate significantly with predator swarm expansion rate to varying degrees, suggesting causal inter-relationships among these diverse predation measures. More broadly, our results highlight the importance of examining multiple parameters for thoroughly understanding the population biology of microbial predation.
It is unusual to find fruiting bodies of different myxobacteria occupying the same territory on natural samples. We were thus interested in determining whether myxobacteria establish territorial dominance and, if so, what the mechanism of that interaction is. We had previously observed that vegetative swarms of Myxococcus xanthus and Stigmatella aurantiaca placed close to each other on an agar surface initially merged but eventually separated. Further studies indicated that these two species also formed separate fruiting bodies when mixed together on developmental agar (unpublished observation). We examined the interactions between two more closely related myxobacteria, M. xanthus and M. virescens, in greater detail. When mixtures of a kanamycin-resistant strain of M. xanthus and a kanamycin-sensitive strain of M. virescens were placed together under developmental conditions, the cells sorted themselves out and established separate fruiting body territories. In addition, differential viable counts of a mixture of the two species during development indicated that each strain was producing an extracellular component that inhibited the growth and development of the other. Nevertheless, finally, M. virescens invariably outcompeted M. xanthus at all input ratios of M. xanthus/M. virescens tested. This is consistent with the observation that M. virescens is by far the more commonly encountered of the two species. The properties of the inhibitory substance from M. virescens are consistent with the possibility that it is a bacteriocin. Our working hypothesis is that the bacteriocin plays a role in the establishment of myxobacterial territoriality. If so, this is an example of an ecological function of bacteriocins.
Twenty different isolates of the soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus were examined for the presence of multicopy single-stranded DNA (msDNA)-producing retroelements, or retrons. Each strain was analyzed by ethidium bromide staining for msDNA, 32P labeling of the msDNA molecule by the reverse transcriptase (RT) extension method, and DNA hybridization experiments with probes derived from two retrons, Mx162 and Mx65, previously cloned from M. xanthus DZF1. These analyses revealed that all M. xanthus strains contain an msDNA very similar to Mx162 msDNA, and 13 strains also contain a second smaller msDNA very similar to Mx65 msDNA. In addition, the strains contained retron-encoded genes msr and msd, which code for msDNA, and a gene for RT responsible for the synthesis of msDNA. These genes show greater than 80% nucleotide sequence similarity to retrons Mx162 or Mx65. The near-ubiquitous occurrence of msDNA retrons among M. xanthus strains and their homogeneous nature are in marked contrast to the highly diverse but rarely occurring msDNA-producing elements of Escherichia coli. The possible origin and evolution of RT and retron elements is discussed in view of these findings.