Myxococcus xanthus as a Model Organism for Peptidoglycan Assembly and Bacterial Morphogenesis.
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A fundamental question in biology is how cell shapes are genetically encoded and enzymatically generated. Prevalent shapes among walled bacteria include spheres and rods. These shapes are chiefly determined by the peptidoglycan (PG) cell wall. Bacterial division results in two daughter cells, whose shapes are predetermined by the mother. This makes it difficult to explore the origin of cell shapes in healthy bacteria. In this review, we argue that the Gram-negative bacterium Myxococcus xanthus is an ideal model for understanding PG assembly and bacterial morphogenesis, because it forms rods and spheres at different life stages. Rod-shaped vegetative cells of M. xanthus can thoroughly degrade their PG and form spherical spores. As these spores germinate, cells rebuild their PG and reestablish rod shape without preexisting templates. Such a unique sphere-to-rod transition provides a rare opportunity to visualize de novo PG assembly and rod-like morphogenesis in a well-established model organism.