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J Bacteriol. 1989 Jun;171(6):3412-9.

Rate and topography of peptidoglycan synthesis during cell division in Escherichia coli: concept of a leading edge.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The rate at which the peptidoglycan of Escherichia coli is synthesized during the division cycle was studied with two methods. One method involved synchronization of E. coli MC4100 lysA cultures by centrifugal elutriation and subsequent pulse-labeling of the synchronously growing cultures with [meso-3H]diaminopimelic acid ([3H]Dap). The second method was autoradiography of cells pulse-labeled with [3H]Dap. It was found that the peptidoglycan is synthesized at a more or less exponentially increasing rate during the division cycle with a slight acceleration in this rate as the cells start to constrict. Apparently, polar cap formation requires synthesis of extra surface components, presumably to accommodate for a change in the surface-to-volume ratio. Furthermore, it was found that the pool size of Dap was constant during the division cycle. Close analysis of the topography of [3H]Dap incorporation at the constriction site revealed that constriction proceeded by synthesis of peptidoglycan at the leading edge of the invaginating cell envelope. During constriction, no reallocation of incorporation occurred, i.e., the incorporation at the leading edge remained high throughout the process of constriction. Impairment of penicillin-binding protein 3 by mutation or by the specific beta-lactam antibiotic furazlocillin did not affect [3H]Dap incorporation during initiation of constriction. However, the incorporation at the constriction site was inhibited in later stages of the constriction process. It is concluded that during division at least two peptidoglycan-synthesizing systems are operating sequentially.

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