BacM, an N-terminally processed bactofilin of Myxococcus xanthus, is crucial for proper cell shape

Matthias K. Koch, Colleen A. Mchugh, Egbert Hoiczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


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 3nm 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1051
Number of pages21
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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