Independence and interdependence of Dif and Frz chemosensory pathways in Myxococcus xanthus chemotaxis

Mol Microbiol. 2008 Aug;69(3):714-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06322.x. Epub 2008 Jun 28.


Dif and Frz, two Myxococcus xanthus chemosensory pathways, are required in phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) chemotaxis for excitation and adaptation respectively. DifA and FrzCD, the homologues of methyl-accepting chemoreceptors in the two pathways, were examined for methylation in the context of chemotaxis and inter-pathway interactions. Evidence indicates that DifA may not undergo methylation, but signals transmitting through DifA do modulate FrzCD methylation. Results also revealed that M. xanthus possesses Dif-dependent and Dif-independent PE-sensing mechanisms. Previous studies showed that FrzCD methylation is decreased by negative chemostimuli but increased by attractants such as PE. Results here demonstrate that the Dif-dependent sensory mechanism suppresses the increase in FrzCD methylation in attractant response and elevates FrzCD methylation upon negative stimulation. In other words, FrzCD methylation is governed by opposing forces from Dif-dependent and Dif-independent sensing mechanisms. We propose that the Dif-independent but Frz-dependent PE sensing leads to increases in FrzCD methylation and subsequent adaptation, while the Dif-dependent PE signalling suppresses or diminishes the increase in FrzCD methylation to decelerate or delay adaptation. We contend that these antagonistic interactions are crucial for effective chemotaxis in this gliding bacterium to ensure that adaptation does not occur too quickly relative to the slow speed of M. xanthus movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chemotaxis*
  • Methylation
  • Myxococcus xanthus / genetics
  • Myxococcus xanthus / physiology*
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DifA protein, Myxococcus xanthus
  • DifE protein, Myxococcus xanthus
  • FrzCD protein, Myxococcus xanthus
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • phosphatidylethanolamine