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EMBO J. 2011 Apr 20;30(8):1425-32. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.61. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

Identification of FtsW as a transporter of lipid-linked cell wall precursors across the membrane.

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Department of Chemical Biology and Organic Chemistry, Institute of Biomembranes, Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, Padualaan, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Bacterial cell growth necessitates synthesis of peptidoglycan. Assembly of this major constituent of the bacterial cell wall is a multistep process starting in the cytoplasm and ending in the exterior cell surface. The intracellular part of the pathway results in the production of the membrane-anchored cell wall precursor, Lipid II. After synthesis this lipid intermediate is translocated across the cell membrane. The translocation (flipping) step of Lipid II was demonstrated to require a specific protein (flippase). Here, we show that the integral membrane protein FtsW, an essential protein of the bacterial division machinery, is a transporter of the lipid-linked peptidoglycan precursors across the cytoplasmic membrane. Using Escherichia coli membrane vesicles we found that transport of Lipid II requires the presence of FtsW, and purified FtsW induced the transbilayer movement of Lipid II in model membranes. This study provides the first biochemical evidence for the involvement of an essential protein in the transport of lipid-linked cell wall precursors across biogenic membranes.

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