Journal of bacteriology

The dev Operon Regulates the Timing of Sporulation during Myxococcus xanthus Development.

PMID 28264995


Myxococcus xanthus undergoes multicellular development when starved. Thousands of rod-shaped cells coordinate their movements and aggregate into mounds in which cells differentiate into spores. Mutations in the dev operon impair development. The dev operon encompasses a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat-associated (CRISPR-Cas) system. Null mutations in devI, a small gene at the beginning of the dev operon, suppress the developmental defects caused by null mutations in the downstream devR and devS genes but failed to suppress defects caused by a small in-frame deletion in devT We provide evidence that the original mutant has a second-site mutation. We show that devT null mutants exhibit developmental defects indistinguishable from devR and devS null mutants, and a null mutation in devI suppresses the defects of a devT null mutation. The similarity of DevTRS proteins to components of the CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defense (Cascade), together with our molecular characterization of dev mutants, support a model in which DevTRS form a Cascade-like subcomplex that negatively autoregulates dev transcript accumulation and prevents DevI overproduction that would strongly inhibit sporulation. Our results also suggest that DevI transiently inhibits sporulation when regulated normally. The mechanism of transient inhibition may involve MrpC, a key transcription factor, whose translation appears to be weakly inhibited by DevI. Finally, our characterization of a devI devS mutant indicates that very little exo transcript is required for sporulation, which is surprising since Exo proteins help form the polysaccharide spore coat.IMPORTANCE CRISPR-Cas systems typically function as adaptive immune systems in bacteria. The dev CRISPR-Cas system of M. xanthus has been proposed to prevent bacteriophage infection during development, but how dev controls sporulation has been elusive. Recent evidence supported a model in which DevR and DevS prevent overproduction of DevI, a predicted 40-residue inhibitor of sporulation. We provide genetic evidence that DevT functions together with DevR and DevS to prevent DevI overproduction. We also show that spores form about 6 h earlier in mutants lacking devI than in the wild type. Only a minority of natural isolates appear to have a functional dev promoter and devI, suggesting that a functional dev CRISPR-Cas system evolved recently in niches where delayed sporulation and/or protection from bacteriophage infection proved advantageous.