Peptidoglycan (PGN) is a major constituent of most bacterial cell walls that is recognized as a primary target of the innate immune system. The availability of pure PGN molecules has become key to different biological studies. This review aims to (1) provide an overview of PGN biosynthesis, focusing on the main biosynthetic intermediates; (2) focus on the challenges for chemical synthesis posed by the unique and complex structure of PGN; and (3) cover the synthetic routes of PGN fragments developed to date. The key difficulties in the synthesis of PGN molecules mainly involve stereoselective glycosylation involving NAG derivatives. The complex synthesis of the carbohydrate backbone commonly involves multistep sequences of chemical reactions to install the lactyl moiety at the O-3 position of NAG derivatives and to control enantioselective glycosylation. Recent advances are presented and synthetic routes are described according to the main strategy used: (i) based on the availability of starting materials such as glucosamine derivatives; (ii) based on a particular orthogonal synthesis; and (iii) based on the use of other natural biopolymers as raw materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number392
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


  • Bacterial peptidoglycan
  • NAG-NAM disaccharide
  • PGN biosynthesis
  • PGN synthesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Assembly of peptidoglycan fragments: a synthetic challenge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this