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Summary

Bactofilins are fibre-forming bacterial cytoskeletal proteins. Here, we report the structural and biochemical characterization of MXAN_7475 (BacM), one of the four bactofilins of Myxococcus xanthus. Absence of BacM leads to a characteristic ‘crooked’ cell morphology and an increased sensitivity to antibiotics targeting cell wall biosynthesis. The absence of the other three bactofilins MXAN_4637–4635 (BacN-P) has no obvious phenotype. In M. xanthus, BacM exists as a 150-amino-acid full-length version and as a version cleaved before Ser28. In the cell, native BacM forms 3 nm wide fibres, which assemble into bundles forming helix-like cytoplasmic cables throughout the cell, and in a subset of cells additionally a polarly arranged lateral rod-like structure. Isolated fibres consist almost completely of the N-terminally truncated version, suggesting that the proteolytic cleavage occurs before or during fibre formation. Fusion of BacM to mCherry perturbs BacM function and cellular fibre arrangement, resulting for example in the formation of one prominent polar corkscrew-like structure per cell. Immunofluorescence staining of BacM and MreB shows that their cellular distributions are not matching. Taken together, these data suggest that rod-shaped bacteria like M. xanthus use bactofilin fibres to achieve and maintain their characteristic cell morphology and cell wall stability.