Growth of Myxococcus xanthus in continuous-flow-cell bioreactors as a method for studying development
Reference: Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2014) 80(8): 2461-2467

Nutrient sensors and developmental timers are two classes of genes vital to the establishment of early development in the social soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. The products of these genes trigger and regulate the earliest events that drive the colony from a vegetative state to aggregates, which ultimately leads to the formation of fruiting bodies and the cellular differentiation of the individual cells. In order to more accurately identify the genes and pathways involved in the initiation of this multicellular developmental program in M. xanthus, we adapted a method of growing vegetative populations within a constant controllable environment by using flow cell bioreactors, or flow cells. By establishing an M. xanthus community within a flow cell, we are able to test developmental responses to changes in the environment with fewer concerns for effects due to nutrient depletion or bacterial waste production. This approach allows for greater sensitivity in investigating communal environmental responses, such as nutrient sensing. To demonstrate the versatility of our growth environment, we carried out time-lapse confocal laser scanning microscopy to visualize M. xanthus biofilm growth and fruiting body development, as well as fluorescence staining of exopolysaccharides deposited by biofilms. We also employed the flow cells in a nutrient titration to determine the minimum concentration required to sustain vegetative growth. Our data show that by using a flow cell, M. xanthus can be held in a vegetative growth state at low nutrient concentrations for long periods, and then, by slightly decreasing the nutrient concentration, cells can be allowed to initiate the developmental program.

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Smaldone G. T., Jin Y., Whitfield D. L., Mu A. Y., Wong E. C., Wuertz S. and Singer M. 

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Smaldone G.T., Jin Y., Whitfield D.L., Mu A.Y., Wong E.C., Wuertz S., Singer M.