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author:("Li, duzhong")
1.  Effects of Exopolysaccharide Production on Liquid Vegetative Growth, Stress Survival and Stationary Phase Recovery in Myxococcus xanthus 
Journal of microbiology (Seoul, Korea)  2012;50(2):10.1007/s12275-012-1349-5.
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.
PMCID: PMC3819231  PMID: 22538652
Myxococcus xanthus; exopolysaccharide; vegetative growth; stress survival; stationary phase recovery
2.  Characterization of Four Type IV Pilin Homologues in Stigmatella aurantiaca DSM17044 by Heterologous Expression in Myxococcus xanthus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75105.
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.
PMCID: PMC3776727  PMID: 24058653
3.  Biosynthetic Mechanism for Sunscreens of the Biocontrol Agent Lysobacter enzymogenes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66633.
Lysobacter are ubiquitous environmental bacteria emerging as novel biocontrol agents and new sources of anti-infectives. So far, very little effort has been invested in the study of the biology of these Gram-negative gliding bacteria. Many Lysobacter species are characterized by their yellow-orange appearance. Using transposon mutagenesis, we identified a stand-alone polyketide synthase (PKS) gene cluster required for the pigment production in L. enzymogenes OH11. The yellow pigments were abolished in the “white” mutants generated by target-specific deletions of ketosynthase (KS), acyl carrier protein, or ketoreductase. Spectroscopic data suggested that the pigments belong to xanthomonadin-like aryl polyenes. Polyene-type polyketides are known to be biosynthesized by modular PKS (Type I), not by stand-alone PKS (Type II) which always contain the heterodimer KS-CLF (chain-length factor) as the key catalytic component. Remarkably, this aryl polyene PKS complex only contains the KS (ORF17), but not the CLF. Instead, a hypothetical protein (ORF16) is located immediately next to ORF17. ORF16–17 homologs are widespread in numerous uncharacterized microbial genomes, in which an ORF17 homolog is always accompanied by an ORF16 homolog. The deletion of ORF16 eliminated pigment production, and homology modeling suggested that ORF16 shares a structural similarity to the N-terminal half of CLF. A point-mutation of glutamine (Q166A) that is the conserved active site of known CLF abolished pigment production. The “white” mutants are significantly more sensitive to UV/visible light radiation or H2O2 treatment than the wild type. These results unveil the first example of Type II PKS-synthesized polyene pigments and show that the metabolites serve as Lysobacter “sunscreens” that are important for the survival of these ubiquitous environmental organisms.
PMCID: PMC3691225  PMID: 23826105
4.  DNA Builds and Strengthens the Extracellular Matrix in Myxococcus xanthus Biofilms by Interacting with Exopolysaccharides 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51905.
One intriguing discovery in modern microbiology is the extensive presence of extracellular DNA (eDNA) within biofilms of various bacterial species. Although several biological functions have been suggested for eDNA, including involvement in biofilm formation, the detailed mechanism of eDNA integration into biofilm architecture is still poorly understood. In the biofilms formed by Myxococcus xanthus, a Gram-negative soil bacterium with complex morphogenesis and social behaviors, DNA was found within both extracted and native extracellular matrices (ECM). Further examination revealed that these eDNA molecules formed well organized structures that were similar in appearance to the organization of exopolysaccharides (EPS) in ECM. Biochemical and image analyses confirmed that eDNA bound to and colocalized with EPS within the ECM of starvation biofilms and fruiting bodies. In addition, ECM containing eDNA exhibited greater physical strength and biological stress resistance compared to DNase I treated ECM. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that DNA interacts with EPS and strengthens biofilm structures in M. xanthus.
PMCID: PMC3530553  PMID: 23300576
5.  Natural Transformation of Myxococcus xanthus▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(9):2122-2132.
Myxococcus xanthus belongs to the delta class of the proteobacteria and is notable for its complex life-style with social behaviors and relatively large genome. Although previous observations have suggested the existence of horizontal gene transfer in M. xanthus, its ability to take up exogenous DNA via natural transformation has not been experimentally demonstrated. In this study, we achieved natural transformation in M. xanthus using the autonomously replicating myxobacterial plasmid pZJY41 as donor DNA. M. xanthus exopolysaccharide (EPS) was shown to be an extracellular barrier for transformation. Cells deficient in EPS production, e.g., mutant strains carrying ΔdifA or ΔepsA, became naturally transformable. Among the inner barriers to transformation were restriction-modification systems in M. xanthus, which could be partially overcome by methylating DNA in vitro using cell extracts of M. xanthus prior to transformation. In addition, the incubation time of DNA with cells and the presence of divalent magnesium ion affected transformation frequency of M. xanthus. Furthermore, we also observed a potential involvement of the type IV pilus system in the DNA uptake machinery of M. xanthus. The natural transformation was totally eliminated in the ΔpilQ/epsA and Δtgl/epsA mutants, and null mutation of pilB or pilC in an ΔepsA background diminished the transformation rate. Our study, to the best of our knowledge, provides the first example of a naturally transformable species among deltaproteobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3133062  PMID: 21378184
6.  Exopolysaccharide-Independent Social Motility of Myxococcus xanthus 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16102.
Social motility (S motility), the coordinated movement of large cell groups on agar surfaces, of Myxococcus xanthus requires type IV pili (TFP) and exopolysaccharides (EPS). Previous models proposed that this behavior, which only occurred within cell groups, requires cycles of TFP extension and retraction triggered by the close interaction of TFP with EPS. However, the curious observation that M. xanthus can perform TFP-dependent motility at a single-cell level when placed onto polystyrene surfaces in a highly viscous medium containing 1% methylcellulose indicated that “S motility” is not limited to group movements. In an apparent further challenge of the previous findings for S motility, mutants defective in EPS production were found to perform TFP-dependent motility on polystyrene surface in methylcellulose-containing medium. By exploring the interactions between pilin and surface materials, we found that the binding of TFP onto polystyrene surfaces eliminated the requirement for EPS in EPS- cells and thus enabled TFP-dependent motility on a single cell level. However, the presence of a general anchoring surface in a viscous environment could not substitute for the role of cell surface EPS in group movement. Furthermore, EPS was found to serve as a self-produced anchoring substrate that can be shed onto surfaces to enable cells to conduct TFP-dependent motility regardless of surface properties. These results suggested that in certain environments, such as in methylcellulose solution, the cells could bypass the need for EPS to anchor their TPF and conduct single-cell S motility to promote exploratory movement of colonies over new specific surfaces.
PMCID: PMC3016331  PMID: 21245931

Results 1-6 (6)