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Free Content Motility in cyanobacteria: polysaccharide tracks and Type IV pilus motors

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Motility in cyanobacteria is useful for purposes that range from seeking out favourable light environments to establishing symbioses with plants and fungi. No known cyanobacterium is equipped with flagella, but a diverse range of species is able to ‘glide’ or ‘twitch’ across surfaces. Cyanobacteria with this capacity range from unicellular species to complex filamentous forms, including species such as N ostoc punctiforme, which can generate specialised motile filaments called hormogonia. Recent work on the model unicellular cyanobacterium S ynechocystis sp. PCC 6803 has shown that its means of propulsion has much in common with the twitching motility of heterotrophs such as P seudomonas and M yxococcus. Movement depends on Type IV pili, which are extended, adhere to the substrate and then retract to pull the cell across the surface. Previous work on filamentous cyanobacteria suggested a very different mechanism, with movement powered by the directional extrusion of polysaccharide from pores close to the cell junctions. Now a new report by Khayatan and colleagues in this issue of Molecular Microbiology suggests that the motility of N ostoc hormogonia has much more in common with S ynechocystis than was previously thought. In both cases, polysaccharide secretion is important for preparing the surface, but the directional motive force comes from Type IV pili.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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