Predation is a fundamental ecological process, but within most microbial ecosystems the molecular mechanisms of predation remain poorly understood. We investigated transcriptome changes associated with the predation of Escherichia coli by the myxobacterium Myxococcus xanthus using mRNA sequencing. Exposure to pre-killed prey significantly altered expression of 1319 predator genes. However, the transcriptional response to living prey was minimal, with only 12 genes being significantly up-regulated. The genes most induced by prey presence (kdpA and kdpB, members of the kdp regulon) were confirmed by reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR to be regulated by osmotic shock in M. xanthus, suggesting indirect sensing of prey. However, the prey showed extensive transcriptome changes when co-cultured with predator, with 40 % of its genes (1534) showing significant changes in expression. Bacteriolytic M. xanthus culture supernatant and secreted outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) also induced changes in expression of large numbers of prey genes (598 and 461, respectively). Five metabolic pathways were significantly enriched in prey genes up-regulated on exposure to OMVs, supernatant and/or predatory cells, including those for ribosome and lipopolysaccharide production, suggesting that the prey cell wall and protein production are primary targets of the predator’s attack. Our data suggest a model of the myxobacterial predatome (genes and proteins associated with predation) in which the predator constitutively produces secretions which disable its prey whilst simultaneously generating a signal that prey is present. That signal then triggers a regulated feeding response in the predator.
Sporulation is a survival strategy, adapted by bacterial cells in response to harsh environmental adversities. The adaptation potential differs between strains and the variations may arise from differences in gene regulation. Gene networks are a valuable way of studying such regulation processes and establishing associations between genes. We reconstructed and compared sporulation gene co-expression networks (GCNs) of the model laboratory strain Bacillus subtilis 168 and the food-borne industrial isolate Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. Transcriptome data obtained from samples of six stages during the sporulation process were used for network inference. Subsequently, a gene set enrichment analysis was performed to compare the reconstructed GCNs of B. subtilis 168 and B. amyloliquefaciens with respect to biological functions, which showed the enriched modules with coherent functional groups associated with sporulation. On basis of the GCNs and time-evolution of differentially expressed genes, we could identify novel candidate genes strongly associated with sporulation in B. subtilis 168 and B. amyloliquefaciens. The GCNs offer a framework for exploring transcription factors, their targets, and co-expressed genes during sporulation. Furthermore, the methodology described here can conveniently be applied to other species or biological processes.