The Dif chemosensory pathway is directly involved in phosphatidylethanolamine sensory transduction in Myxococcus xanthus



Myxococcus xanthus cells glide on solid surfaces and are chemotactically stimulated by certain phosphatidylethanolamine species. The dif gene cluster consists of six genes, difABCDEG, five of which encode proteins homologous to known chemotaxis proteins. DifA and DifE are required for the biosynthesis of fibrils, an extracellular matrix comprised of polysaccharide and protein. Chemotactic stimulation by 1,2-O-Bis[11-(Z)-hexadecenoyl]-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine (16:1 PE) and dilauroyl PE (12:0 PE) requires fibrils. Although previous work has shown that difA and difE mutants are not stimulated by 12:0 PE, these results do not distinguish between a dependence on fibrils or a direct role in chemosensory transduction. Here we provide evidence that the Dif chemosensory pathway directly mediates PE sensory transduction. First, stimulation by and adaptation to 16:1 PE requires all of the dif genes, including difBDG, which are not essential for fibril biogenesis. Second, a specific residue within the first putative methylation domain of DifA is required for stimulation by 16:1 PE but not fibril biogenesis. Transmembrane signalling through a chimeric NarX-DifA chemoreceptor is required for fibril formation but not for stimulation by or adaptation to 16:1 PE. Third, difD and difE are required for stimulation by dioleoyl PE (18:1 PE) although the response does not require fibrils. Taken together these results argue that the Dif pathway mediates both matrix formation and lipid chemotaxis.