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J Struct Biol. 2007 Nov;160(2):115-24. Epub 2007 Aug 11.

Are S-layers exoskeletons? The basic function of protein surface layers revisited.

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Abteilung Molekulare Strukturbiologie, Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Am Klopferspitz 18, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany.


Surface protein or glycoprotein layers (S-layers) are common structures of the prokaryotic cell envelope. They are either associated with the peptidoglycan or outer membrane of bacteria, and constitute the only cell wall component of many archaea. Despite their occurrence in most of the phylogenetic branches of microorganisms, the functional significance of S-layers is assumed to be specific for genera or groups of organisms in the same environment rather than common to all prokaryotes. Functional aspects have usually been investigated with isolated S-layer sheets or proteins, which disregards the interactions between S-layers and the underlying cell envelope components. This study discusses the synergistic effects in cell envelope assemblies, the hypothetical role of S-layers for cell shape formation, and the existence of a common function in view of new insights.

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