Ras GTPase-like protein MglA, a controller of bacterial social-motility in Myxobacteria, has evolved to control bacterial predation by Bdellovibrio

PLoS Genet. 2014 Apr 10;10(4):e1004253. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004253. eCollection 2014 Apr.


Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus invade Gram-negative bacteria in a predatory process requiring Type IV pili (T4P) at a single invasive pole, and also glide on surfaces to locate prey. Ras-like G-protein MglA, working with MglB and RomR in the deltaproteobacterium Myxococcus xanthus, regulates adventurous gliding and T4P-mediated social motility at both M. xanthus cell poles. Our bioinformatic analyses suggested that the GTPase activating protein (GAP)-encoding gene mglB was lost in Bdellovibrio, but critical residues for MglA(Bd) GTP-binding are conserved. Deletion of mglA(Bd) abolished prey-invasion, but not gliding, and reduced T4P formation. MglA(Bd) interacted with a previously uncharacterised tetratricopeptide repeat (TPR) domain protein Bd2492, which we show localises at the single invasive pole and is required for predation. Bd2492 and RomR also interacted with cyclic-di-GMP-binding receptor CdgA, required for rapid prey-invasion. Bd2492, RomR(Bd) and CdgA localize to the invasive pole and may facilitate MglA-docking. Bd2492 was encoded from an operon encoding a TamAB-like secretion system. The TamA protein and RomR were found, by gene deletion tests, to be essential for viability in both predatory and non-predatory modes. Control proteins, which regulate bipolar T4P-mediated social motility in swarming groups of deltaproteobacteria, have adapted in evolution to regulate the anti-social process of unipolar prey-invasion in the "lone-hunter" Bdellovibrio. Thus GTP-binding proteins and cyclic-di-GMP inputs combine at a regulatory hub, turning on prey-invasion and allowing invasion and killing of bacterial pathogens and consequent predatory growth of Bdellovibrio.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bdellovibrio / genetics*
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclic GMP / genetics
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / genetics*
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / genetics*
  • Myxococcus xanthus / genetics*
  • Operon / genetics
  • ras Proteins / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • MglA protein, Myxococcus xanthus
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • ras Proteins
  • Cyclic GMP