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J Bacteriol. 1977 Jul;131(1):293-305.

Temperature-sensitive cell division mutants of Escherichia coli with thermolabile penicillin-binding proteins.


The thermostability of the penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) of 31 temperature-sensitive cell division mutants of Escherichia coli has been examined. Two independent cell division mutants have been found that have highly thermolabile PBP3. Binding of [(14)C]benzylpenicillin to PBP3 (measured in envelopes prepared from cells grown at the permissive temperature) was about 30% of the normal level at 30 degrees C, and the ability to bind [(14)C]benzylpenicillin was rapidly lost on incubation at 42 degrees C. The other PBPs were normal in both mutants. At 30 degrees C both mutants were slightly longer than their parents and on shifting to 42 degrees C they ceased dividing, but cell mass and deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis continued and long filaments were formed. At 42 degrees C division slowly recommenced, but at 44 degrees C this did not occur. The inhibition of division at 42 degrees C was suppressed by 0.35 M sucrose, and in one of the mutants it was partially suppressed by 10 mM MgCl(2). PBP3 was not stabilized in vitro at 42 degrees C by these concentrations of sucrose or MgCl(2). Revertants that grew as normal rods at 42 degrees C regained both the normal level and the normal thermostability of PBP3. The results provide extremely strong evidence that the inactivation of PBP3 at 42 degrees C in the mutants is the cause of the inhibition of cell division at this temperature and identify PBP3 as an essential component of the process of cell division in E. coli. It is the inactivation of this protein by penicillins and cephalosporins that results in the inhibition of division characteristic of low concentrations of many of these antibiotics.

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