Spatial control of cell differentiation in Myxococcus xanthus

Bryan Julien, A. Dale Kaiser, Anthony Garza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


Myxococcus xanthus develops species-specific multicellular fruiting bodies. Starting from a uniform mat of cells, some cells enter into nascent fruiting body aggregates, whereas other ceils remain outside. The cells within the fruiting body differentiate from rods into spherical, heat-resistant spores, whereas the cells outside the aggregates, called peripheral cells, remain rod-shaped. Early developmentally regulated genes are expressed in peripheral cells as well as by cells in the fruiting bodies. By contrast, late developmental genes are only expressed by cells within the nascent fruiting bodies. The data show that peripheral cells begin to develop, but are unable to express genes that are switched on later than about 6 h after the start of development. All of the genes whose expression is limited to the fruiting body are dependent on C-signaling either directly or indirectly, whereas the genes that are equally expressed in peripheral rods and in fruiting body cells are not. One of the C-signal-dependent and spatially patterned operons is called dev, and the dev operon has been implicated in the process of sporulation. It is proposed that expression of certain genes, including those of the dev operon, is limited to the nascent fruiting body because fruiting body cells engage in a high level of C-signaling. Peripheral cells do less C-signaling than fruiting body cells, because they have a different spatial arrangement and are at lower density. As a consequence, peripheral cells fail to express the late genes necessary for spore differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9098-9103
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell-cell interaction
  • Myxobacteria
  • Positive feedback
  • Spatial pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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