Closely linked genetic loci required for swarm cell differentiation and multicellular migration by Proteus mirabilis

Mol Microbiol. 1991 Aug;5(8):1975-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1991.tb00819.x.


The pathogenic bacterium Proteus mirabilis exhibits a form of multicellular behaviour called swarming migration. This involves the differentiation of vegetative cells at the colony margin into swarm cells which are long, aseptate, multinucleate, hyper-flagellated filaments able to undergo repeated cycles of co-ordinated population migration and consolidation (reversion to vegetative cells). Transposon mutagenesis of uropathogenic P. mirabilis strain U6450 with Tn5 generated 4860 chromosomal insertions and, of these, 75 (1.6%) caused visibly abnormal swarming behaviour, indicating that at least 45 genes are involved in directing motility, cell differentiation and multicellular behaviour. While about one fifth of the swarm-defective mutants lacked flagella and were non-motile non-swarming (NMNS) the majority were normally flagellated and motile but were unable to form swarm cells (motile non-swarming, MNS), or were motile and able to form swarm cells but displayed aberrant patterns of multicellular migration (dendritic swarming, DS) or consolidation (frequent and infrequent consolidation, FC and IC). Restriction enzyme mapping of representative mutant DNAs by Southern hybridization with transposon DNA probes identified eight different mutated genetic loci within the five phenotypic classes. Subsequent Southern analysis of large restriction fragments separated by pulsed-field electrophoresis showed that these eight mutated loci required for motility, cell differentiation and multicellular migration were clustered on a region of DNA spanning approximately 8% of the 4.2 mbp P. mirabilis chromosome. Further linkage analysis showed that the DS locus involved in the ordered migration of the swarm cell population mapped separately from two main clusters of swarm loci, one cluster containing, within 112 kbp, genetic determinants of motility (NMNS) and also differentiation into swarm cells (MNS1, MNS2), and a second within a neighbouring 95 kbp DNA sequence containing three loci involved in the control of consolidation (FC, IC1, IC2).

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Flagella / metabolism
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Genetic Linkage / genetics
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family / genetics
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional / genetics
  • Proteus mirabilis / genetics*
  • Proteus mirabilis / growth & development
  • Proteus mirabilis / physiology
  • Proteus mirabilis / ultrastructure
  • Restriction Mapping