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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2011 Dec;75(4):636-63. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00022-11.

Peptidoglycan hydrolases of Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Institut de Biochimie et Biophysique Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Bat 430, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay F-91405, France.


The review summarizes the abundant information on the 35 identified peptidoglycan (PG) hydrolases of Escherichia coli classified into 12 distinct families, including mainly glycosidases, peptidases, and amidases. An attempt is also made to critically assess their functions in PG maturation, turnover, elongation, septation, and recycling as well as in cell autolysis. There is at least one hydrolytic activity for each bond linking PG components, and most hydrolase genes were identified. Few hydrolases appear to be individually essential. The crystal structures and reaction mechanisms of certain hydrolases having defined functions were investigated. However, our knowledge of the biochemical properties of most hydrolases still remains fragmentary, and that of their cellular functions remains elusive. Owing to redundancy, PG hydrolases far outnumber the enzymes of PG biosynthesis. The presence of the two sets of enzymes acting on the PG bonds raises the question of their functional correlations. It is difficult to understand why E. coli keeps such a large set of PG hydrolases. The subtle differences in substrate specificities between the isoenzymes of each family certainly reflect a variety of as-yet-unidentified physiological functions. Their study will be a far more difficult challenge than that of the steps of the PG biosynthesis pathway.

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