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Exopolysaccharide-independent social motility of Myxococcus xanthus.

  • Author(s): Hu, Wei
  • Hossain, Muhaiminu
  • Lux, Renate
  • Wang, Jing
  • Yang, Zhe
  • Li, Yuezhong
  • Shi, Wenyuan
  • et al.
Abstract

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.

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