Surface-motility induction, attraction and hitchhiking between bacterial species promote dispersal on solid surfaces

Efrat Hagai, Reut Dvora, Tal Havkin-Blank, Einat Zelinger, Ziv Porat, Stefan Schulz, Yael Helman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The ability to move on solid surfaces provides ecological advantages for bacteria, yet many bacterial species lack this trait. We found that Xanthomonas spp. Overcome this limitation by making use of proficient motile bacteria in their vicinity. Using X. perforans and Paenibacillus vortex as models, we show that X. perforans induces surface motility, attracts proficient motile bacteria and 'rides' them for dispersal. In addition, X. perforans was able to restore surface motility of strains that lost this mode of motility under multiple growth cycles in the lab. The described interaction occurred both on agar plates and tomato leaves and was observed between several xanthomonads and motile bacterial species. Thus, suggesting that this motility induction and hitchhiking strategy might be widespread and ecologically important. This study provides an example as to how bacteria can rely on the abilities of their neighboring species for their own benefit, signifying the importance of a communal organization for fitness.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1147-1151
Number of pages5
JournalISME Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Reut Shavit for her help in identifying isolated bacterial strains, the Photography Department at the Weizmann Institute for their professional help in imaging and figure preparation and the Otto Warburg Minerva Center for Agricultural Biotechnology for use of their facilities. Thanks to Professor Sigal Ben Yehuda for kindly providing Bacillus subtilis strain 3610 and Dr Avigor Eldar for kindly providing swrA/sfp complement strain of B. subtilis 168. This work was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF) and the Research Centre for Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.


  • Paenibacillus
  • Xanthomonas
  • surface motility


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