Motility, cell communication and decision-making in a filamentous bacterium


Filamentous cyanobacteria such as Anabaena and Nostoc are sophisticated multicellular prokaryotes that exhibit cell differentiation, pattern formation and co-ordinated gliding motility. These features depend on the rapid intercellular exchange of metabolites and signals. Prof Mullineaux and collaborators have developed fluorescence microscopic techniques to trace this molecular trafficking in real time, and have begun to characterise the structures that enable it, which are functionally analogous to metazoan gap junctions. This project will combine these experimental approaches with computational modelling under the supervision of Dr Duffy for quantitative understanding of the roles of intercellular communication in co-ordinated multicellular behaviour.


Wilde A, Mullineaux CW (2015) Motility in cyanobacteria: polysaccharide tracks and Type IV pilus motors. Mol. Microbiol. 98, 998-1001


Nürnberg DJ, Mariscal V, Parker J, Mastroianni G, Flores E, Mullineaux CW (2014) Branching and intercellular communication in the Section V cyanobacterium Mastigocladus laminosus, a complex multicellular prokaryote. Mol. Microbiol. 91, 935-949.


Mullineaux CW, Mariscal V, Nenninger A, Khanum H, Herrero A, Flores E, Adams DG (2008) Mechanism of intercellular molecular exchange in heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria.  EMBO J 27, 1299-1308


Nürnberg DJ, Mariscal V, Bornikoel J, Nieves-Morión M, Krauß N, Herrero A, Maldener I, Flores E, Mullineaux CW (2015) Intercellular diffusion of a fluorescent sucrose analog via the septal junctions in a filamentous cyanobacterium.  mBio 6 (2), e02109-14.


Schuergers N, Lenn T, Kampmann R, Meissner MV, Esteves T, Temerinac-Ott M, Korvink JG, Lowe AR, Mullineaux CW, Wilde A (2016) Cyanobacteria use micro-optics to sense light direction. eLife 2016;5:e12620

Biological Areas:

Cell Biology


Genes, development and STEM approaches to biology