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J Bacteriol. 1980 Apr;142(1):43-51.

Control of cell septation by lateral wall extension in a pH-conditional morphology mutant of Klebsiella pneumoniae.


The pH-conditional morphology mutant of Klebsiella pneumoniae strain MirM7 grows as cocci at pH 7 and as rods at pH 5.8. The mutant has a high-level mecillinam resistance (50% lethal dose greater than 200 micrograms/ml) in both forms. When broth cultures of the rod-shaped mutant were grown with 0.7 microgram of mecillinam per ml, cells assumed a round shape and continued to divided at a higher rate than the untreated control. A MirM7 rod-shaped revertant (MirA12), when treated with the same antibiotic concentration, changed to coccal shape and stopped dividing. The penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) of strains MirA12 and MirM7 were analyzed. K. pneumoniae had six major PBPs quite similar to those of Escherichia coli. No differences were seen in the PBPs of MirM7 cocci and rods and MirA12 cells. In particular, PBP2 was found to be present and similar in MirM7 rods and cocci and MirA12 cells. We suggest that that in gram-negative rods, a control mechanism exists which prevents further septation in the absence of lateral cell wall elongation. The unique behavior of MirM7 is due to the fact that the control mechanism is not active in this strain. This model allows us to explain the preservation of shape in bacterial rods under various conditions of growth and the mechanism of bacterial killing by mecillinam.

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