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Killing of Escherichia coli by Myxococcus xanthus in Aqueous Environments Requires Exopolysaccharide-Dependent Physical Contact

Pan, Hongwei, He, Xuesong, Lux, Renate, Luan, Jia, Shi, Wenyuan
Microbial ecology 2013 v.66 no.3 pp. 630-638
Escherichia coli, Myxococcus xanthus, aquatic environment, bioactive properties, fimbriae, lipopolysaccharides, mutants, secondary metabolites, soil bacteria
Nutrient or niche-based competition among bacteria is a widespread phenomenon in the natural environment. Such interspecies interactions are often mediated by secreted soluble factors and/or direct cell–cell contact. As ubiquitous soil bacteria, Myxococcus species are able to produce a variety of bioactive secondary metabolites to inhibit the growth of other competing bacterial species. Meanwhile, Myxococcus spp. also exhibit sophisticated predatory behavior, an extreme form of competition that is often stimulated by close contact with prey cells and largely depends on the availability of solid surfaces. Myxococcus spp. can also be isolated from aquatic environments. However, studies focusing on the interaction between Myxococcus and other bacteria in such environments are still limited. In this study, using the well-studied Myxococcus xanthus DK1622 and Escherichia coli as model interspecies interaction pair, we demonstrated that in an aqueous environment, M. xanthus was able to kill E. coli in a cell contact-dependent manner and that the observed contact-dependent killing required the formation of co-aggregates between M. xanthus and E. coli cells. Further analysis revealed that exopolysaccharide (EPS), type IV pilus, and lipopolysaccharide mutants of M. xanthus displayed various degrees of attenuation in E. coli killing, and it correlated well with the mutants' reduction in EPS production. In addition, M. xanthus showed differential binding ability to different bacteria, and bacterial strains unable to co-aggregate with M. xanthus can escape the killing, suggesting the specific nature of co-aggregation and the targeted killing of interacting bacteria. In conclusion, our results demonstrated EPS-mediated, contact-dependent killing of E. coli by M. xanthus, a strategy that might facilitate the survival of this ubiquitous bacterium in aquatic environments.