2005, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology
Bacterial cells communicate extensively with each other using intercellular signaling molecules. In most cases these signals are small diffusible molecules and part of a communication system that helps the bacteria to assess population size. Analyses of the formation of the magnificently shaped, multicellular, spore-filled fruiting bodies in Myxococcus xanthus revealed a unique intercellular communication system in which the signaling molecule is a 17 kDa, non-diffusible, cell surface-associated protein. This signaling molecule is tailored to guide the slow moving cells of M. xanthus into the fruiting bodies and to coordinate temporally and spatially the two morphogenetic events, aggregation and sporulation, during fruiting body formation.