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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2008 Mar;32(2):321-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2007.00090.x.

Morphogenesis of rod-shaped sacculi.

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Molecular Cytology, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


For growth and division of rod-shaped bacteria, the cylindrical part of the sacculus has to be elongated and two new cell poles have to be synthesized. The elongation is performed by a protein complex, the elongase that inserts disaccharidepentapeptide units at a limited number of discrete sites while using the cytoskeletal MreB helix as a tracking device. Upon initiation of cell division by positioning of the cytoskeletal Z-ring at mid cell, a switch from dispersed to concentrated local peptidoglycan-synthesis occurs. From this point on, peptidoglycan synthesis is for a large part redirected from elongating activity to synthesis of new cell poles by the divisome. The divisome might be envisioned as an extended elongase because apart from its basic peptidoglycan synthesizing activity, specific functions have to be added. These are conversion from a cylinder to a sphere, invagination of the outer membrane and addition of hydrolases that allow separation of the daughter cells. The elongase and the divisome are dynamic hyperstructures that probably share part of their proteins. Although this multifunctionality and flexibility form a barrier to the functional elucidation of its individual subunits, it helps the cells to survive a variety of emergency situations and to proliferate securely.

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