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Int J Med Microbiol. 2010 Feb;300(2-3):161-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2009.10.005. Epub 2009 Dec 14.

An oldie but a goodie - cell wall biosynthesis as antibiotic target pathway.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology-Pharmaceutical Microbiology Section, University of Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 168, D-53115 Bonn, Germany.


Bacterial cell wall biosynthesis represents the target pathway for penicillin, the first antibiotic that was clinically applied on a large scale. Penicillin, by means of its beta-lactam ring, inhibits a number of enzymes which participate in inserting monomeric cell wall building blocks into the cell wall polymer and which have been termed penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs). Ever since the introduction of penicillin, hundreds of beta-lactam antibiotics have been developed and details of their molecular activities elaborated. Meanwhile, various additional classes of antibiotics have been described, which inhibit the same pathway, yet use target molecules others than the PBPs. Such classes include the glycopeptide antibiotics, lipopeptide and lipodepsipeptide antibiotics, the lantibiotics and various other natural product antibiotics with comparatively complex structures. They usually target the membrane-bound steps of the biosynthesis pathway and the highly conserved lipid-bound intermediates of the building block such as lipid II, which represents a particular "Achilles' heel" for antibiotic attack. With in-depth analysis of the activity of more recently identified inhibitors and with the availability of novel techniques for studying prokaryotic cell biology, new insights were obtained into the molecular organisation of the cell wall biosynthesis machinery and its interconnections with other vital cellular processes such as cell division. This, in turn, provides hints for new targets to be exploited and for the development of novel cell wall biosynthesis inhibitors.

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