In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (15)

Articles by Roy D. Welch in JoVE

Other articles by Roy D. Welch on PubMed

Global Mutational Analysis of NtrC-like Activators in Myxococcus Xanthus: Identifying Activator Mutants Defective for Motility and Fruiting Body Development

Journal of Bacteriology. Oct, 2003  |  Pubmed ID: 14526020

The multicellular developmental cycle of Myxococcus xanthus requires large-scale changes in gene transcription, and recent findings indicate that NtrC-like activators play a prominent role in regulating these changes. In this study, we made insertions in 28 uncharacterized ntrC-like activator (nla) genes and found that eight of these insertions cause developmental defects. Hence, these results are consistent with the idea that M. xanthus uses a series of different NtrC-like activators during fruiting body development. Four of the eight developmental mutants we identified have motility defects. The nla1, nla19, and nla23 mutants show S-motility defects, while the nla24 mutant shows defects in both S-motility and A-motility. During development, aggregation of the nla1, nla19, and nla23 mutants is delayed slightly and the nla24 mutant shows no signs of aggregation or sporulation. The nla4, nla6, nla18, and nla28 mutants have no appreciable loss in motility, but they fail to aggregate and to sporulate normally. The nla18 mutant belongs to a special class of developmental mutants whose defects can be rescued when they are codeveloped with wild-type cells, suggesting that nla18 fails to produce a cell-cell signal required for development. The three remaining activator mutants, nla4, nla6, and nla28, appear to have complex developmental phenotypes that include deficiencies in cell-cell developmental signals.

Sigma54 Enhancer Binding Proteins and Myxococcus Xanthus Fruiting Body Development

Journal of Bacteriology. Jul, 2004  |  Pubmed ID: 15205438

A search of the M1genome sequence, which includes 97% of the Myxococcus xanthus genes, identified 53 sequence homologs of sigma54-dependent enhancer binding proteins (EBPs). A DNA microarray was constructed from the M1genome that includes those homologs and 318 other M. xanthus genes for comparison. To screen the developmental program with this array, an RNA extract from growing cells was compared with one prepared from developing cells at 12 h. Previous reporter studies had shown that M. xanthus has initiated development and has begun to express many developmentally regulated genes by 12 h. The comparison revealed substantial increases in the expression levels of 11 transcription factors that may respond to environmental stimuli. Six of the 53 EBP homologs were expressed at significantly higher levels at 12 h of development than during growth. Three were previously unknown genes, and they were inactivated to look for effects on fruiting body development. One knockout mutant produced fruiting bodies of abnormal shape that depended on the composition of the medium.

Functional Genome Annotation Through Phylogenomic Mapping

Nature Biotechnology. Jun, 2005  |  Pubmed ID: 15940241

Accurate determination of functional interactions among proteins at the genome level remains a challenge for genomic research. Here we introduce a genome-scale approach to functional protein annotation--phylogenomic mapping--that requires only sequence data, can be applied equally well to both finished and unfinished genomes, and can be extended beyond single genomes to annotate multiple genomes simultaneously. We have developed and applied it to more than 200 sequenced bacterial genomes. Proteins with similar evolutionary histories were grouped together, placed on a three dimensional map and visualized as a topographical landscape. The resulting phylogenomic maps display thousands of proteins clustered in mountains on the basis of coinheritance, a strong indicator of shared function. In addition to systematic computational validation, we have experimentally confirmed the ability of phylogenomic maps to predict both mutant phenotype and gene function in the delta proteobacterium Myxococcus xanthus.

Bacterial Postgenomics: the Promise and Peril of Systems Biology

Journal of Bacteriology. Dec, 2006  |  Pubmed ID: 16997947

Xanthusbase: Adapting Wikipedia Principles to a Model Organism Database

Nucleic Acids Research. Jan, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17090585

xanthusBase ( is the official model organism database (MOD) for the social bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. In many respects, M.xanthus represents the pioneer model organism (MO) for studying the genetic, biochemical, and mechanistic basis of prokaryotic multicellularity, a topic that has garnered considerable attention due to the significance of biofilms in both basic and applied microbiology research. To facilitate its utility, the design of xanthusBase incorporates open-source software, leveraging the cumulative experience made available through the Generic Model Organism Database (GMOD) project, MediaWiki (, and dictyBase (, to create a MOD that is both highly useful and easily navigable. In addition, we have incorporated a unique Wikipedia-style curation model which exploits the internet's inherent interactivity, thus enabling M.xanthus and other myxobacterial researchers to contribute directly toward the ongoing genome annotation.

Predicting Prokaryotic Ecological Niches Using Genome Sequence Analysis

PloS One. 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17710143

Automated DNA sequencing technology is so rapid that analysis has become the rate-limiting step. Hundreds of prokaryotic genome sequences are publicly available, with new genomes uploaded at the rate of approximately 20 per month. As a result, this growing body of genome sequences will include microorganisms not previously identified, isolated, or observed. We hypothesize that evolutionary pressure exerted by an ecological niche selects for a similar genetic repertoire in those prokaryotes that occupy the same niche, and that this is due to both vertical and horizontal transmission. To test this, we have developed a novel method to classify prokaryotes, by calculating their Pfam protein domain distributions and clustering them with all other sequenced prokaryotic species. Clusters of organisms are visualized in two dimensions as 'mountains' on a topological map. When compared to a phylogenetic map constructed using 16S rRNA, this map more accurately clusters prokaryotes according to functional and environmental attributes. We demonstrate the ability of this map, which we term a "niche map", to cluster according to ecological niche both quantitatively and qualitatively, and propose that this method be used to associate uncharacterized prokaryotes with their ecological niche as a means of predicting their functional role directly from their genome sequence.

Spatial Organization of Myxococcus Xanthus During Fruiting Body Formation

Journal of Bacteriology. Dec, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17921303

Microcinematography was used to examine fruiting body development of Myxococcus xanthus. Wild-type cells progress through three distinct phases: a quiescent phase with some motility but little aggregation (0 to 8 h), a period of vigorous motility leading to raised fruiting bodies (8 to 16 h), and a period of maturation during which sporulation is initiated (16 to 48 h). Fruiting bodies are extended vertically in a series of tiers, each involving the addition of a cell monolayer on top of the uppermost layer. A pilA (MXAN_5783) mutant produced less extracellular matrix material and thus allowed closer examination of tiered aggregate formation. A csgA (MXAN_1294) mutant exhibited no quiescent phase, aberrant aggregation in phase 2, and disintegration of the fruiting bodies in the third phase.

Complete Genome Sequence of the Myxobacterium Sorangium Cellulosum

Nature Biotechnology. Nov, 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 17965706

The genus Sorangium synthesizes approximately half of the secondary metabolites isolated from myxobacteria, including the anti-cancer metabolite epothilone. We report the complete genome sequence of the model Sorangium strain S. cellulosum So ce56, which produces several natural products and has morphological and physiological properties typical of the genus. The circular genome, comprising 13,033,779 base pairs, is the largest bacterial genome sequenced to date. No global synteny with the genome of Myxococcus xanthus is apparent, revealing an unanticipated level of divergence between these myxobacteria. A large percentage of the genome is devoted to regulation, particularly post-translational phosphorylation, which probably supports the strain's complex, social lifestyle. This regulatory network includes the highest number of eukaryotic protein kinase-like kinases discovered in any organism. Seventeen secondary metabolite loci are encoded in the genome, as well as many enzymes with potential utility in industry.

Practical Applications of Bacterial Functional Genomics

Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering Reviews. 2007  |  Pubmed ID: 18059635

The Emerging World of Wikis

Science (New York, N.Y.). Jun, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18535227

Chemotaxis As an Emergent Property of a Swarm

Journal of Bacteriology. Oct, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18723623

We have characterized and quantified a form of bacterial chemotaxis that manifests only as an emergent property by measuring symmetry breaking in a swarm of Myxococcus xanthus exposed to a two-dimensional nutrient gradient from within an agar substrate. M. xanthus chemotaxis requires cell-cell contact and coordinated motility, as individual motile cells exhibit only nonvectorial movement in the presence of a nutrient gradient. Genes that specifically affect M. xanthus chemotaxis include at least 10 of the 53 that express enhancer binding proteins of the NtrC-like class, an indication that this behavior is controlled through transcription, most likely by a complex signal transduction network.

Quantifying Aggregation Dynamics During Myxococcus Xanthus Development

Journal of Bacteriology. Oct, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 21784940

Under starvation conditions, a swarm of Myxococcus xanthus cells will undergo development, a multicellular process culminating in the formation of many aggregates called fruiting bodies, each of which contains up to 100,000 spores. The mechanics of symmetry breaking and the self-organization of cells into fruiting bodies is an active area of research. Here we use microcinematography and automated image processing to quantify several transient features of developmental dynamics. An analysis of experimental data indicates that aggregation reaches its steady state in a highly nonmonotonic fashion. The number of aggregates rapidly peaks at a value 2- to 3-fold higher than the final value and then decreases before reaching a steady state. The time dependence of aggregate size is also nonmonotonic, but to a lesser extent: average aggregate size increases from the onset of aggregation to between 10 and 15 h and then gradually decreases thereafter. During this process, the distribution of aggregates transitions from a nearly random state early in development to a more ordered state later in development. A comparison of experimental results to a mathematical model based on the traffic jam hypothesis indicates that the model fails to reproduce these dynamic features of aggregation, even though it accurately describes its final outcome. The dynamic features of M. xanthus aggregation uncovered in this study impose severe constraints on its underlying mechanisms.

The Entomopathogenic Bacterial Endosymbionts Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus: Convergent Lifestyles from Divergent Genomes

PloS One. 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 22125637

Members of the genus Xenorhabdus are entomopathogenic bacteria that associate with nematodes. The nematode-bacteria pair infects and kills insects, with both partners contributing to insect pathogenesis and the bacteria providing nutrition to the nematode from available insect-derived nutrients. The nematode provides the bacteria with protection from predators, access to nutrients, and a mechanism of dispersal. Members of the bacterial genus Photorhabdus also associate with nematodes to kill insects, and both genera of bacteria provide similar services to their different nematode hosts through unique physiological and metabolic mechanisms. We posited that these differences would be reflected in their respective genomes. To test this, we sequenced to completion the genomes of Xenorhabdus nematophila ATCC 19061 and Xenorhabdus bovienii SS-2004. As expected, both Xenorhabdus genomes encode many anti-insecticidal compounds, commensurate with their entomopathogenic lifestyle. Despite the similarities in lifestyle between Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus bacteria, a comparative analysis of the Xenorhabdus, Photorhabdus luminescens, and P. asymbiotica genomes suggests genomic divergence. These findings indicate that evolutionary changes shaped by symbiotic interactions can follow different routes to achieve similar end points.

Xanthusbase After Five Years Expands to Become Openmods

Nucleic Acids Research. Jan, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22116063

Xanthusbase (, a model organism database for the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus, functions as a collaborative information repository based on Wikipedia principles. It was created more than 5 years ago to serve as a cost-effective reference database for M. xanthus researchers, an education tool for undergraduate students to learn about genome annotation, and a means for the community of researchers to collaboratively improve their organism's annotation. We have achieved several goals and are seeking creative solutions to ongoing challenges. Along the way we have made several important improvements to Xanthusbase related to stability, security and usability. Most importantly, we have designed and implemented an installer that enables other microbial model organism communities to use it as a MOD. This version, called Openmods, has already been used to create Xenorhabdusbase (, Caulobacterbase ( and soon Bdellovibriobase.

A Clp/Hsp100 Chaperone Functions in Myxococcus Xanthus Sporulation and Self-organization

Journal of Bacteriology. Jan, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22287524

The Clp/Hsp100 proteins are chaperones that play a role in protein degradation and re-activation. In bacteria, they exhibit a high degree of pleiotropy, effecting both individual and multicellular phenotypes. In this article we present the first characterization of a Clp/Hsp100 homolog in Myxococcus xanthus (MXAN_4832). Deletion of MXAN_4832 causes defects in both swarming and aggregation related to cell motility and the production of fibrils, which are an important component of the extracellular matrix of a swarm. The deletion also effects the formation of myxospores during development, causing them to become heat-sensitive. The protein product of MXAN_4832 can act as a chaperone in vitro, providing biochemical evidence in support of our hypothesis that MXAN_4832 is a functional Clp/Hsp100 homolog. There are a total of twelve Clp/Hsp100 homologs in M. xanthus including MXAN_4832, and based on its mutational and biochemical characterization they may well represent an important group.

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