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J Bacteriol. 2004 Dec;186(24):8326-36.

Endopeptidase penicillin-binding proteins 4 and 7 play auxiliary roles in determining uniform morphology of Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037, USA.


The low-molecular-weight (LMW) penicillin-binding protein, PBP 5, plays a dominant role in determining the uniform cell shape of Escherichia coli. However, the physiological functions of six other LMW PBPs are unknown, even though the existence and enzymatic activities of four of these were established three decades ago. By applying fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to quantify the cellular dimensions of multiple PBP mutants, we found that the endopeptidases PBP 4 and PBP 7 also influence cell shape in concert with PBP 5. This is the first reported biological function for these two proteins. In addition, the combined loss of three DD-carboxypeptidases, PBPs 5 and 6 and DacD, also impaired cell shape. In contrast to previous reports based on visual inspection alone, FACS analysis revealed aberrant morphology in a mutant lacking only PBP 5, a phenotype not shared by any other strain lacking a single LMW PBP. PBP 5 removes the terminal D-alanine from pentapeptide side chains of muropeptide subunits, and pentapeptides act as donors for cross-linking adjacent side chains. As endopeptidases, PBPs 4 and 7 cleave cross-links in the cell wall. Therefore, overall cell shape may be determined by the existence or location of a specific type of peptide cross-link, with PBP 5 activity influencing how many cross-links are made and PBPs 4 and 7 acting as editing enzymes to remove inappropriate cross-links.

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