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Can J Microbiol. 2012 Oct;58(10):1183-94. doi: 10.1139/w2012-102. Epub 2012 Oct 11.

Changes in peptidoglycan structure and metabolism during differentiation of Proteus mirabilis into swarmer cells.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.


The O-acetylation of peptidoglycan in Gram-negative bacteria occurs specifically at the C-6 hydroxyl group of muramoyl residues. The level of peptidoglycan O-acetylation was found to decrease from 51% to 29% upon differentiation of Proteus mirabilis vegetative cells to swarmers. This decrease was accompanied by a change in the muropeptide composition of the peptidoglycan. In particular, the content of anhydromuropeptides increased, while the amount of Lys-Lys-muropeptides arising from bound lipoprotein decreased. These changes together with a shift in proportion of larger muropeptides suggested a decrease in average chain length of the muropeptides from swarmer cells. Zymography using SDS-PAGE gels containing either O-acetylated or chemically de-O-acetylated peptidoglycan was used to monitor the activity of specific autolysins during the differentiation of vegetative to swarming cells of P. mirabilis. A 43 kDa autolysin with increased specificity for O-acetylated peptidoglycan was detected in vegetative cells, but its activity appeared to decrease as the cells began to differentiate, while the levels of 3 other autolysins with apparent specificity for non-O-acetylated peptidoglycan increased. These changes are discussed in relation to the autolysin profile of the bacteria and the changes in peptidoglycan composition with cell differentiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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