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Annu Rev Biochem. 2018 Jun 20;87:991-1014. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-062917-012921. Epub 2018 Mar 29.

Imaging Bacterial Cell Wall Biosynthesis.

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Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA.
Current affiliation: Biophysics and Biochemistry Department, University of California, San Francisco, California 94158, USA; email:
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA; email: , ,


Peptidoglycan is an essential component of the cell wall that protects bacteria from environmental stress. A carefully coordinated biosynthesis of peptidoglycan during cell elongation and division is required for cell viability. This biosynthesis involves sophisticated enzyme machineries that dynamically synthesize, remodel, and degrade peptidoglycan. However, when and where bacteria build peptidoglycan, and how this is coordinated with cell growth, have been long-standing questions in the field. The improvement of microscopy techniques has provided powerful approaches to study peptidoglycan biosynthesis with high spatiotemporal resolution. Recent development of molecular probes further accelerated the growth of the field, which has advanced our knowledge of peptidoglycan biosynthesis dynamics and mechanisms. Here, we review the technologies for imaging the bacterial cell wall and its biosynthesis activity. We focus on the applications of fluorescent d-amino acids, a newly developed type of probe, to visualize and study peptidoglycan synthesis and dynamics, and we provide direction for prospective research.


bacterial cell wall; bacterial morphogenesis; d-amino acids; fluorescent probes; microscopy; peptidoglycan

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