Surface-motility induction, attraction and hitchhiking between bacterial species promote dispersal on solid surfaces

ISME J. 2014 May;8(5):1147-51. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.218. Epub 2013 Dec 5.


The ability to move on solid surfaces provides ecological advantages for bacteria, yet many bacterial species lack this trait. We found that Xanthomonas spp. overcome this limitation by making use of proficient motile bacteria in their vicinity. Using X. perforans and Paenibacillus vortex as models, we show that X. perforans induces surface motility, attracts proficient motile bacteria and 'rides' them for dispersal. In addition, X. perforans was able to restore surface motility of strains that lost this mode of motility under multiple growth cycles in the lab. The described interaction occurred both on agar plates and tomato leaves and was observed between several xanthomonads and motile bacterial species. Thus, suggesting that this motility induction and hitchhiking strategy might be widespread and ecologically important. This study provides an example as to how bacteria can rely on the abilities of their neighboring species for their own benefit, signifying the importance of a communal organization for fitness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Locomotion
  • Microbial Interactions*
  • Paenibacillus / physiology*
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology
  • Xanthomonas / physiology*