The genetic basis of predation by myxobacteria

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Myxobacteria (phylum Myxococcota) are abundant and virtually ubiquitous microbial predators. Facultatively multicellular organisms, they are able to form multicellular fruiting bodies and swarm across surfaces, cooperatively hunting for prey. Myxobacterial communities are able to kill a wide range of prey microbes, assimilating their biomass to fuel population growth. Their mechanism of predation is exobiotic – hydrolytic enzymes and toxic metabolites are secreted into the extracellular environment, killing and digesting prey cells from without. However, recent observations of single-cell predation and contact-dependent prey killing challenge the dogma of myxobacterial predation being obligately cooperative. Regardless of their predatory mechanisms, myxobacteria have a broad prey range, which includes Gram-negative bacteria, Gram-positive bacteria and fungi. Pangenome analyses have shown that their extremely large genomes are mainly composed of accessory genes, which are not shared by all members of their species. It seems that the diversity of accessory genes in different strains provides the breadth of activity required to prey upon such a smorgasbord of microbes, and also explains the considerable strain-to-strain variation in predatory efficiency against specific prey. After providing a short introduction to general features of myxobacterial biology which are relevant to predation, this review brings together a rapidly growing body of work into the molecular mechanisms and genetic basis of predation, presenting a summary of current knowledge, highlighting trends in research and suggesting strategies by which we can potentially exploit myxobacterial predation in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Microbial Physiology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 May 2024

Publication series

NameAdvances in Microbial Physiology
ISSN (Print)0065-2911


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