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J Bacteriol. 2003 Feb;185(4):1423-31.

Peptidoglycan synthesis in the absence of class A penicillin-binding proteins in Bacillus subtilis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA.


Penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) catalyze the final, essential reactions of peptidoglycan synthesis. Three classes of PBPs catalyze either trans-, endo-, or carboxypeptidase activities on the peptidoglycan peptide side chains. Only the class A high-molecular-weight PBPs have clearly demonstrated glycosyltransferase activities that polymerize the glycan strands, and in some species these proteins have been shown to be essential. The Bacillus subtilis genome sequence contains four genes encoding class A PBPs and no other genes with similarity to their glycosyltransferase domain. A strain lacking all four class A PBPs has been constructed and produces a peptidoglycan wall with only small structural differences from that of the wild type. The growth rate of the quadruple mutant is much lower than those of strains lacking only three of the class A PBPs, and increases in cell length and frequencies of wall abnormalities were noticeable. The viability and wall production of the quadruple-mutant strain indicate that a novel enzyme can perform the glycosyltransferase activity required for peptidoglycan synthesis. This activity was demonstrated in vitro and shown to be sensitive to the glycosyltransferase inhibitor moenomycin. In contrast, the quadruple-mutant strain was resistant to moenomycin in vivo. Exposure of the wild-type strain to moenomycin resulted in production of a phenotype similar to that of the quadruple mutant.

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