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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 2;105(48):18953-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808035105. Epub 2008 Nov 24.

Molecular organization of Gram-negative peptidoglycan.

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  • 1Division of Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


The stress-bearing component of the bacterial cell wall--a multi-gigadalton bag-like molecule called the sacculus--is synthesized from peptidoglycan. Whereas the chemical composition and the 3-dimensional structure of the peptidoglycan subunit (in at least one conformation) are known, the architecture of the assembled sacculus is not. Four decades' worth of biochemical and electron microscopy experiments have resulted in two leading 3-D peptidoglycan models: "Layered" and "Scaffold", in which the glycan strands are parallel and perpendicular to the cell surface, respectively. Here we resolved the basic architecture of purified, frozen-hydrated sacculi through electron cryotomography. In the Gram-negative sacculus, a single layer of glycans lie parallel to the cell surface, roughly perpendicular to the long axis of the cell, encircling the cell in a disorganized hoop-like fashion.

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