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Study Finds Molecular Recognition Mechanism That Assists Outer Membrane Fusion in Myxobacteria

Molecular biologists at the University of Wyoming have found a molecular mechanism that allows myxobacteria to recognize related strains that lead to the transient fusion of their outer membranes to exchange lipids and proteins.

Results of the study, led by Associate Professor Daniel Wall in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, were published in the November issue of PLOS Genetics. Wall’s group found that Myxococcus xanthus exchanges cellular components to help single cells transition into multicellular life. Further, the mechanism may play a role in how the bacteria adapt to stresses, perhaps including antibiotic resistance.

Myxococcus xanthus are soil bacteria and are unusual – they are social, says Wall. They interact with one another and form units of cells that exhibit behaviors such as group movement over solid surfaces. Related bacteria also will assemble multicellular structures in response to starvation.

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