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J Bacteriol. 2000 Oct;182(20):5925-30.

On the architecture of the gram-negative bacterial murein sacculus.

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TPI, Physics Department, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada B2G 2W5.


The peptidoglycan network of the murein sacculus must be porous so that nutrients, waste products, and secreted proteins can pass through. Using Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a baseline for gram-negative sacculi, the hole size distribution in the peptidoglycan network has been modeled by computer simulation to deduce the network's properties. By requiring that the distribution of glycan chain lengths predicted by the model be in accord with the distribution observed, we conclude that the holes are slits running essentially perpendicular to the local axis of the glycan chains (i. e., the slits run along the long axis of the cell). This result is in accord with previous permeability measurements of Beveridge and Jack and Demchik and Koch. We outline possible advantages that might accrue to the bacterium via this architecture and suggest ways in which such defect structures might be detected. Certainly, large molecules do penetrate the peptidoglycan layer of gram-negative bacteria, and the small slits that we suggest might be made larger by the bacterium.

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