Three PilZ Domain Proteins, PlpA, PixA, and PixB, Have Distinct Functions in Regulation of Motility and Development in Myxococcus xanthus

J Bacteriol. 2021 Jun 8;203(13):e0012621. doi: 10.1128/JB.00126-21. Epub 2021 Jun 8.


In bacteria, the nucleotide-based second messenger bis-(3'-5')-cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP) binds to effectors to generate outputs in response to changes in the environment. In Myxococcus xanthus, c-di-GMP regulates type IV pilus-dependent motility and the starvation-induced developmental program that results in formation of spore-filled fruiting bodies; however, little is known about the effectors that bind c-di-GMP. Here, we systematically inactivated all 24 genes encoding PilZ domain-containing proteins, which are among the most common c-di-GMP effectors. We confirm that the stand-alone PilZ domain protein PlpA is important for regulation of motility independently of the Frz chemosensory system and that Pkn1, which is composed of a Ser/Thr kinase domain and a PilZ domain, is specifically important for development. Moreover, we identify two PilZ domain proteins that have distinct functions in regulating motility and development. PixB, which is composed of two PilZ domains and an acetyltransferase domain, binds c-di-GMP in vitro and regulates type IV pilus-dependent and gliding motility in a Frz-dependent manner as well as development. The acetyltransferase domain is required and sufficient for function during growth, while all three domains and c-di-GMP binding are essential for PixB function during development. PixA is a response regulator composed of a PilZ domain and a receiver domain, binds c-di-GMP in vitro, and regulates motility independently of the Frz system, likely by setting up the polarity of the two motility systems. Our results support a model whereby PlpA, PixA, and PixB act in independent pathways and have distinct functions in regulation of motility. IMPORTANCE c-di-GMP signaling controls bacterial motility in many bacterial species by binding to downstream effector proteins. Here, we identify two PilZ domain-containing proteins in Myxococcus xanthus that bind c-di-GMP. We show that PixB, which contains two PilZ domains and an acetyltransferase domain, acts in a manner that depends on the Frz chemosensory system to regulate motility via the acetyltransferase domain, while the intact protein and c-di-GMP binding are essential for PixB to support development. In contrast, PixA acts in a Frz-independent manner to regulate motility. Taking our results together with previous observations, we conclude that PilZ domain proteins and c-di-GMP act in multiple independent pathways to regulate motility and development in M. xanthus.

Keywords: Frz; MglA; MglA GTPase; Myxococcus; PilZ domain; c-di-GMP; chemosensory system; exopolysaccharide; fruiting body; fruiting body formation; gliding motility; sporulation; type IV pili.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Myxococcus xanthus / genetics*
  • Myxococcus xanthus / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Domains*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • Cyclic GMP