Bacterial cell wall synthesis: New insights from localization studies

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In order to maintain shape and withstand intracellular pressure, most bacteria are surrounded by a cell wall that consists mainly of the cross-linked polymer peptidoglycan (PG). The importance of PG for the maintenance of bacterial cell shape is underscored by the fact that, for various bacteria, several mutations affecting PG synthesis are associated with cell shape defects. In recent years, the application of fluorescence microscopy to the field of PG synthesis has led to an enormous increase in data on the relationship between cell wall synthesis and bacterial cell shape. First, a novel staining method enabled the visualization of PG precursor incorporation in live cells. Second, penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs), which mediate the final stages of PG synthesis, have been localized in various model organisms by means of immunofluorescence microscopy or green fluorescent protein fusions. In this review, we integrate the knowledge on the last stages of PG synthesis obtained in previous studies with the new data available on localization of PG synthesis and PBPs, in both rod-shaped and coccoid cells. We discuss a model in which, at least for a subset of PBPs, the presence of substrate is a major factor in determining PBP localization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-607
Number of pages23
JournalMicrobiology And Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005


  • FtsZ protein
  • peptidoglycan
  • penicillin binding protein
  • beta lactam antibiotic
  • DNA


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