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Myxobacteria

The myxobacteria are a group of bacteria that predominently live in the soil. The myxobacteria have very large genomes, relative to other bacteria, e.g. 9-10 million nucleotides. Sorangium cellulosum has the largest known (as of 2003) bacterial genome, at 12.2 million nucleotides. Myxobacteria are included among the proteobacteria, a large group of Gram-negative forms.

Myxobacteria can move actively by gliding. They typically travel in swarms, containing many cells kept together by intercellular molecular signals. This close concentration of cells may be necessary to provide a high concentration of extracellular enzymes used to digest food. Myxobacteria produce a number of biomedically and industrially useful chemicals, such as antibiotics, and export those chemicals outside of the cell.

When nutrients are scarce, myxobacteria cells aggregate by chemotaxis into fruiting bodies. These fruiting bodies can take different shapes and colors, depending on the species. Within the fruiting bodies, cells begin as rod-shaped vegetative cells, and develop into rounded myxospores with thick cell walls. These myxospores, analogously to spores in other organisms, are meant to survive until nutrients are more plentiful. The fruiting process is thought to benefit myxobacteria by ensuring that cell growth is resumed with a group (swarm) of myxobacteria, rather than as isolated cells. Similar life cycles have developed among certain amoebae, called cellular slime molds.

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