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J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2003;6(3-4):127-32.

The bacterial cytoskeleton and its putative role in membrane vesicle formation observed in a Gram-positive bacterium producing starch-degrading enzymes.

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  • 1Institut für Mikrobiologie und Genetik, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


Bacteria may possess various kinds of cytoskeleton. In general, bacterial cytoskeletons may play a role in the control and preservation of the cell shape. Such functions become especially evident when the bacteria do not possess a true wall and are nevertheless elongated (e.g. Mycoplasma spp.) or under extreme cultivation conditions whereby loss of the entire bacterial cell wall takes place. Bacterial cytoskeletons may control and preserve the cell shape only if a number of preconditions are fulfilled. They should be present not only transiently, but permanently, they should be located as a lining close to the inner face of the cytoplasmic membrane, enclosing the entire cytoplasm, and they should comprise structural elements (fibrils) crossing the inner volume of the cell in order to provide the necessary stability for the lining. Complete loss of the cell wall layers had earlier been observed to occur during extensive production of bacterial starch-degrading enzymes in an optimized fermentation process by a Gram-positive bacterium. Even under these conditions, the cells had maintained their elongated shape and full viability. Which of the various kinds of bacterial cytoskeleton might have been responsible for shape preservation? Only one of them, the primary or basic cytoskeleton turns out to fulfil the necessary preconditions listed above. Its structural features now provided a first insight into a possible mechanism of formation of membrane blebs and vesicles as observed in the Gram-positive eubacterium Thermoanaerobacterium thermosulfurogenes EM1, and the putative role of the cytoskeletal web in this process.

Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel

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