The gliding bacterium Myxococcus xanthus aggregates to form spore-filled fruiting bodies when starved at high density. All of the identified M. xanthus lipopolysaccharide (LPS) O-antigen biosynthesis mutants exhibit defective motility and fruiting-body development. To determine the cause of these phenotypes, the cell-surface properties of the LPS O-antigen mutants were compared to wild-type cells. The binding characteristics of wild-type and LPS O-antigen-defective strains to cationic resin indicate that the mutant cell surfaces are more electronegative. Antibiotic sensitivity and hexadecane adhesion assays indicate that the wild-type M. xanthus cell surface is hydrophobic, supporting the idea that phospholipids are present in the outer leaflet of the outer membrane. The absence of the LPS O-antigen appears to expose charges associated with phospholipids and LPS core/lipid A, resulting in a dramatic alteration of the cell-surface organization and charge. These differences may affect the interaction of the LPS O-antigen mutants with their substratum and neighboring cells, leading to defects in social and single-cell gliding motility and thus, deficiencies in fruiting body formation. The LPS O-antigen biosynthetic mutations also bypass the requirement of 4521 gene expression for the cell-density signal, A signal. The 4521 gene is overexpressed in these mutants. This 4521 overexpression is dependent on the sensor kinase SasS. Co-development with wild-type cells, or the addition of crude polysaccharides or membrane vesicles restores the ability of LPS O-antigen mutants to form fruiting bodies and lowers 4521 developmental gene expression to wild-type levels. Wild-type vesicles may attach or incorporate into the outer membrane of the mutants that lack LPS O-antigen, restoring a wild-type periplasmic status and allowing for normal levels of 4521 activity and fruiting body formation. We propose that the LPS composition and the configuration of the outer membrane are important elements for the complex behavioral response of M. xanthus fruiting body development.
The LPS O-antigen is required for Myxococcus xanthus social motility and multicellular development