Cell behavior and cell-cell communication during fruiting body morphogenesis in Myxococcus xanthus

Lars Jelsbak, Lotte Søgaard-Andersen

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Formation of spatial patterns of cells from a mass of initially identical cells is a recurring theme in developmental biology, The dynamics that direct pattern formation in biological systems often involve morphogenetic cell movements. An example is fruiting body formation in the gliding bacterium Myxococcus xanthus in which an unstructured population of identical cells rearranges into an asymmetric, stable pattern of multicellular fruiting bodies in response to starvation. Fruiting body formation depends on changes in organized cell movements from swarming to aggregation. The aggregation process is induced and orchestrated by the cell-surface associated 17 kDa C-signal protein. C-signal transmission depends on direct contact between cells. Evidence suggests that C-signal transmission is geometrically constrained to cell ends and that productive C-signal transmission only occurs when cells engage in end-to-end contacts. Here, we review recent progress in the understanding of the pattern formation process that leads to fruiting body formation. Gliding motility in M xanthus involves two polarly localized gliding machines, the S-machine depends on type IV pili and the A-machine seems to involve a slime extrusion mechanism. Using time-lapse video microscopy the gliding motility parameters controlled by the C-signal have been identified. The C-signal induces cells to move with increased gliding speeds, in longer gliding intervals and with decreased stop and reversal frequencies. The combined effect of the C-signal dependent changes in gliding motility behaviour is an increase in the net-distance travelled by a cell per minute. The identification of the motility parameters controlled by the C-signal in combination with the contact-dependent C-signal transmission mechanism have allowed the generation of a qualitative model for C-signal induced aggregation. In this model, the directive properties of the C-signal are a direct consequence of the contact-dependent signal-transmission mechanism, which is a local event involving direct contact between cells that results in a global organization of cells. This pattern formation process does not depend on a diffusible substance. Rather it depends on a cell-surface associated signal to direct the cells appropriately. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)829-839
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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