Nutrient-regulated proteolysis of MrpC halts expression of genes important for commitment to sporulation during Myxococcus xanthus development.
ABSTRACT: Starved Myxococcus xanthus cells glide to aggregation centers and form fruiting bodies in which rod-shaped cells differentiate into ovoid spores. Commitment to development was investigated by adding nutrients at specific times after starvation and determining whether development halted or proceeded. At 24 h poststarvation, some rod-shaped cells were committed to subsequent shape change and to becoming sonication-resistant spores, but nutrients caused partial disaggregation of fruiting bodies. By 30 h poststarvation, 10-fold more cells were committed to becoming sonication-resistant spores, and compact fruiting bodies persisted after nutrient addition. During the critical period of commitment around 24 to 30 h poststarvation, the transcription factors MrpC and FruA cooperatively regulate genes important for sporulation. FruA responds to short-range C-signaling, which increases as cells form fruiting bodies. MrpC was found to be highly sensitive to nutrient-regulated proteolysis both before and during the critical period of commitment to sporulation. The rapid turnover of MrpC upon nutrient addition to developing cells halted expression of the dev operon, which is important for sporulation. Regulated proteolysis of MrpC appeared to involve ATP-independent metalloprotease activity and may provide a mechanism for monitoring whether starvation persists and halting commitment to sporulation if nutrients reappear.
Project description:Myxococcus xanthus is a bacterium that undergoes multicellular development when starved. Cells move to aggregation centers and form fruiting bodies in which cells differentiate into dormant spores. MrpC appears to directly activate transcription of fruA, which also codes for a transcription factor. Both MrpC and FruA are crucial for aggregation and sporulation. The two proteins bind cooperatively in promoter regions of some developmental genes.Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq) and bioinformatic analysis of cells that had formed nascent fruiting bodies revealed 1608 putative MrpC binding sites. These sites included several known to bind MrpC and they were preferentially distributed in likely promoter regions, especially those of genes up-regulated during development. The up-regulated genes include 22 coding for protein kinases. Some of these are known to be directly involved in fruiting body formation and several negatively regulate MrpC accumulation. Our results also implicate MrpC as a direct activator or repressor of genes coding for several transcription factors known to be important for development, for a major spore protein and several proteins important for spore formation, for proteins involved in extracellular A- and C-signaling, and intracellular ppGpp-signaling during development, and for proteins that control the fate of other proteins or play a role in motility. We found that the putative MrpC binding sites revealed by ChIP-seq are enriched for DNA sequences that strongly resemble a consensus sequence for MrpC binding proposed previously. MrpC2, an N-terminally truncated form of MrpC, bound to DNA sequences matching the consensus in all 11 cases tested. Using longer DNA segments containing 15 of the putative MrpC binding sites from our ChIP-seq analysis as probes in electrophoretic mobility shift assays, evidence for one or more MrpC2 binding site was observed in all cases and evidence for cooperative binding of MrpC2 and FruA was seen in 13 cases.We conclude that MrpC and MrpC2 bind to promoter regions of hundreds of developmentally-regulated genes in M. xanthus, in many cases cooperatively with FruA. This binding very likely up-regulates protein kinases, and up- or down-regulates other proteins that profoundly influence the developmental process.
Project description:Starvation induces cell aggregation in the soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus, followed by formation of fruiting bodies packed with myxospores. Sporulation in the absence of fruiting bodies can be artificially induced by high concentrations of glycerol through unclear mechanisms. Here, we show that a compound (ambruticin VS-3) produced by a different myxobacterium, Sorangium cellulosum, affects the development of M. xanthus in a similar manner. Both glycerol (at millimolar levels) and ambruticin VS-3 (at nanomolar concentrations) inhibit M. xanthus fruiting body formation under starvation, and induce sporulation in the presence of nutrients. The response is mediated in M. xanthus by three hybrid histidine kinases (AskA, AskB, AskC) that form complexes interacting with two major developmental regulators (MrpC, FruA). In addition, AskB binds directly to the mrpC promoter in vitro. Thus, our work indicates that the AskABC-dependent regulatory pathway mediates the responses to ambruticin VS-3 and glycerol. We hypothesize that production of ambruticin VS-3 may allow S. sorangium to outcompete M. xanthus under both starvation and growth conditions in soil.
Project description:Upon depletion of nutrients, Myxococcus xanthus forms mounds on a solid surface. The differentiation of rod-shaped cells into stress-resistant spores within mounds creates mature fruiting bodies. The developmental process can be perturbed by the addition of nutrient medium before the critical period of commitment to spore formation. The response was investigated by adding a 2-fold dilution series of nutrient medium to starving cells. An ultrasensitive response was observed, as indicated by a steep increase in the spore number after the addition of 12.5% versus 25% nutrient medium. The level of MrpC, which is a key transcription factor in the gene regulatory network, correlated with the spore number after nutrient medium addition. The MrpC level decreased markedly by 3 h after adding nutrient medium but recovered more after the addition of 12.5% than after 25% nutrient medium addition. The difference in MrpC levels was greatest midway during the period of commitment to sporulation, and mound formation was restored after 12.5% nutrient medium addition but not after adding 25% nutrient medium. Although the number of spores formed after 12.5% nutrient medium addition was almost normal, the transcript levels of "late" genes in the regulatory network failed to rise normally during the commitment period. However, at later times, expression from a reporter gene fused to a late promoter was higher after adding 12.5% than after adding 25% nutrient medium, consistent with the spore numbers. The results suggest that a threshold level of MrpC must be achieved in order for mounds to persist and for cells within to differentiate into spores.IMPORTANCE Many signaling and gene regulatory networks convert graded stimuli into all-or-none switch-like responses. Such ultrasensitivity can produce bistability in cell populations, leading to different cell fates and enhancing survival. We discovered an ultrasensitive response of M. xanthus to nutrient medium addition during development. A small change in nutrient medium concentration caused a profound change in the developmental process. The level of the transcription factor MrpC correlated with multicellular mound formation and differentiation into spores. A threshold level of MrpC is proposed to be necessary to initiate mound formation and create a positive feedback loop that may explain the ultrasensitive response. Understanding how this biological switch operates will provide a paradigm for the broadly important topic of cellular behavior in microbial communities.
Project description:Myxococcus xanthus cells produce lipid bodies containing triacylglycerides during fruiting body development. Fatty acid ?-oxidation is the most energy-efficient pathway for lipid body catabolism. In this study, we used mutants in fadJ (MXAN_5371 and MXAN_6987) and fadI (MXAN_5372) homologs to examine whether ?-oxidation serves an essential developmental function. These mutants contained more lipid bodies than the wild-type strain DK1622 and 2-fold more flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), consistent with the reduced consumption of fatty acids by ?-oxidation. The ?-oxidation pathway mutants exhibited differences in fruiting body morphogenesis and produced spores with thinner coats and a greater susceptibility to thermal stress and UV radiation. The MXAN_5372/5371 operon is upregulated in sporulating cells, and its expression could not be detected in csgA, fruA, or mrpC mutants. Lipid bodies were found to persist in mature spores of DK1622 and wild strain DK851, suggesting that the roles of lipid bodies and ?-oxidation may extend to spore germination.IMPORTANCE Lipid bodies act as a reserve of triacylglycerides for use when other sources of carbon and energy become scarce. ?-Oxidation is essential for the efficient metabolism of fatty acids associated with triacylglycerides. Indeed, the disruption of genes in this pathway has been associated with severe disorders in animals and plants. Myxococcus xanthus, a model organism for the study of development, is ideal for investigating the complex effects of altered lipid metabolism on cell physiology. Here, we show that ?-oxidation is used to consume fatty acids associated with lipid bodies and that the disruption of the ?-oxidation pathway is detrimental to multicellular morphogenesis and spore formation.
Project description:Myxococcus xanthus undergoes a starvation-induced multicellular developmental program during which cells partition into three known fates: (i) aggregation into fruiting bodies followed by differentiation into spores, (ii) lysis, or (iii) differentiation into nonaggregating persister-like cells, termed peripheral rods. As a first step to characterize cell fate segregation, we enumerated total, aggregating, and nonaggregating cells throughout the developmental program. We demonstrate that both cell lysis and cell aggregation begin with similar timing at approximately 24 h after induction of development. Examination of several known regulatory proteins in the separated aggregated and nonaggregated cell fractions revealed previously unknown heterogeneity in the accumulation patterns of proteins involved in type IV pilus (T4P)-mediated motility (PilC and PilA) and regulation of development (MrpC, FruA, and C-signal). As part of our characterization of the cell lysis fate, we set out to investigate the unorthodox MazF-MrpC toxin-antitoxin system which was previously proposed to induce programmed cell death (PCD). We demonstrate that deletion of mazF in two different wild-type M. xanthus laboratory strains does not significantly reduce developmental cell lysis, suggesting that MazF's role in promoting PCD is an adaption to the mutant background strain used previously.
Project description:Myxococcus xanthus is a bacterium that undergoes multicellular development requiring coordinate regulation of multiple signaling pathways. One pathway governs aggregation and sporulation of some cells in a starving population and requires C-signaling, whereas another pathway causes programmed cell death and requires the MazF toxin. In response to starvation, the levels of the bifunctional transcription factor/antitoxin MrpC and its related proteolytic fragment MrpC2 are increased, inhibiting the cell death pathway via direct interaction of MrpC with MazF. Herein, we demonstrate that MrpC2 plays a direct role in the transcriptional response to C-signaling. We show that MrpC2 binds to sequences upstream of the C-signal-dependent fmgA promoter. These sequences are present in other C-signal-dependent promoter regions, indicating a general role for MrpC2 in developmental gene regulation. Association of MrpC and/or MrpC2 with the fmgA promoter region in vivo requires FruA, a protein that is similar to response regulators of 2-component signal transduction systems, but may not be phosphorylated. DNA binding studies showed that this association likely involves an unusual mechanism for a response regulator in which FruA and MrpC2 bind cooperatively to adjacent sites upstream of the fmgA promoter. We propose that this unusual mechanism of combinatorial control allows coordination of morphogenetic C-signaling with starvation signaling and cell death, determining spatiotemporal gene expression and cell fate.
Project description:In response to starvation, Myxococcus xanthus initiates a developmental program that results in the formation of spore-filled, multicellular fruiting bodies. Many developmentally regulated genes in M. xanthus are transcribed from sigma(54) promoters, and these genes require enhancer-binding proteins. Here we report the finding of an unusual group of 12 genes encoding sigma(54)-dependent enhancer-binding proteins containing a forkhead-associated (FHA) domain as their N-terminal sensory domain. FHA domains in other proteins recognize phosphothreonine residues. An insertion mutation in one of these genes, Mx4885, caused a cell autonomous aggregation and sporulation defect. In-frame deletion mutants showed that the FHA domain is necessary for proper Mx4885 function. The altered pattern of developmental gene expression in the mutant implied that Mx4885 is on the pathway of response to the morphogenetic C-signal. Immunoblots specific for C-signal and FruA imply that the site of Mx4885 action is downstream of FruA synthesis on the C-signal transduction pathway. Mx4885 may help to coordinate the level of intracellular phosphorylated FruA (FruA-P) with the level of C-signal displayed on the signal donor cell. Because FHA domains respond to phosphothreonine-containing proteins, these results suggest a regulatory link to the abundant Ser/Thr protein kinases in M. xanthus.
Project description:The formation of spore-filled fruiting bodies by myxobacteria is a fascinating case of multicellular self-organization by bacteria. The organization of Myxococcus xanthus into fruiting bodies has long been studied not only as an important example of collective motion of bacteria, but also as a simplified model for developmental morphogenesis. Sporulation within the nascent fruiting body requires signaling between moving cells in order that the rod-shaped self-propelled cells differentiate into spores at the appropriate time. Probing the three-dimensional structure of myxobacteria fruiting bodies has previously presented a challenge due to limitations of different imaging methods. A new technique using Infrared Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) revealed previously unknown details of the internal structure of M. xanthus fruiting bodies consisting of interconnected pockets of relative high and low spore density regions. To make sense of the experimentally observed structure, modeling and computer simulations were used to test a hypothesized mechanism that could produce high-density pockets of spores. The mechanism consists of self-propelled cells aligning with each other and signaling by end-to-end contact to coordinate the process of differentiation resulting in a pattern of clusters observed in the experiment. The integration of novel OCT experimental techniques with computational simulations can provide new insight into the mechanisms that can give rise to the pattern formation seen in other biological systems such as dictyostelids, social amoeba known to form multicellular aggregates observed as slugs under starvation conditions.
Project description:The bacterium Myxococcus xanthus exhibits a complex multicellular life cycle. In the presence of nutrients, cells prey cooperatively. Upon starvation, they enter a developmental cycle wherein cells aggregate to produce macroscopic fruiting bodies filled with resistant myxospores. We used RNA-Seq technology to examine the transcriptome of the 96 hr developmental program. These data revealed that 1415 genes were sequentially expressed in 10 discrete modules, with expression peaking during aggregation, in the transition from aggregation to sporulation, or during sporulation. Analysis of genes expressed at each specific time point provided insights as to how starving cells obtain energy and precursors necessary for assembly of fruiting bodies and into developmental production of secondary metabolites. This study offers the first global view of developmental transcriptional profiles and provides important tools and resources for future studies.
Project description:Under starvation conditions myxobacteria form multicellular fruiting bodies in which vegetative cells differentiate into heat- and desiccation-resistant myxospores. Myxobacteria in general are a rich source of secondary metabolites that often exhibit biological activities rarely found in nature. Although the involvement of a yellow compound in sporulation and fruiting body formation of Myxococcus xanthus was described almost 30 years ago, the chemical principle of the pigment remained elusive. This work presents the isolation and structure elucidation of a unique class of pigments that were named DKxanthenes (DKX). The corresponding biosynthetic gene cluster was identified, and DKX-negative mutants were constructed to investigate the physiological role of DKX during development. In these mutants, fruiting body formation was delayed. Moreover, severely reduced amounts of viable spores were observed after 120 h of starvation, whereas no viable spores were formed at all after 72 h. The addition of purified DKX to the mutants resulted in the formation of viable spores after 72 h. Even though an antioxidative activity could be assigned to DKX, the true biochemical mechanism underlying the complementation remains to be elucidated.