Modulation of Bacterial Multicellularity via Spatio-specific Polysaccharide Secretion

June 15, 2020 | Biology

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by Salim T. Islam, Israel Vergara Alvarez, Fares Saïdi, Annick Giuseppi, Evgeny Vinogradov, Gaurav Sharma, Leon Espinosa, Castrese Morrone, Gael Brasseur, Jean-François Guillemot, Anaïs Benarouche, Jean-Luc Bridot, Gokulakrishnan Ravicoularamin, Alain Cagna, Charles Gauthier, Mitchell Singer, Henri-Pierre Fierobe, Tâm Mignot, Emilia M. F. Mauriello

The development of multicellularity is a key evolutionary transition allowing for differentiation of physiological functions across a cell population that confers survival benefits; among unicellular bacteria, this can lead to complex developmental behaviors and the formation of higher-order community structures. Herein, we demonstrate that in the social δ-proteobacterium Myxococcus xanthus, the secretion of a novel biosurfactant polysaccharide (BPS) is spatially modulated within communities, mediating swarm migration as well as the formation of multicellular swarm biofilms and fruiting bodies. BPS is a type IV pilus (T4P)-inhibited acidic polymer built of randomly acetylated β-linked tetrasaccharide repeats. Both BPS and exopolysaccharide (EPS) are produced by dedicated Wzx/Wzy-dependent polysaccharide-assembly pathways distinct from that responsible for spore-coat assembly. While EPS is preferentially produced at the lower-density swarm periphery, BPS production is favored in the higher-density swarm interior; this is consistent with the former being known to stimulate T4P retraction needed for community expansion and a function for the latter in promoting initial cell dispersal. Together, these data reveal the central role of secreted polysaccharides in the intricate behaviors coordinating bacterial multicellularity... Continue reading the entire article at the PLOS Biology Blog.

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