An evolutionary link between capsular biogenesis and surface motility in bacteria

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2015 May;13(5):318-26. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3431.


Studying the evolution of macromolecular assemblies is important to improve our understanding of how complex cellular structures evolved, and to identify the functional building blocks that are involved. Recent studies suggest that the macromolecular complexes that are involved in two distinct processes in Myxococcus xanthus - surface motility and sporulation - are derived from an ancestral polysaccharide capsule assembly system. In this Opinion article, we argue that the available data suggest that the motility machinery evolved from this capsule assembly system following a gene duplication event, a change in carbohydrate polymer specificity and the acquisition of additional proteins by the motility complex, all of which are key features that distinguish the motility and sporulation systems. Furthermore, the presence of intermediates of these systems in bacterial genomes suggests a testable evolutionary model for their emergence and spread.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Capsules / genetics*
  • Bacterial Capsules / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Movement
  • Myxococcus xanthus / genetics
  • Myxococcus xanthus / metabolism*