Send to

Choose Destination
J Theor Biol. 1987 Feb 7;124(3):275-92.

A model for the three-dimensional structure of peptidoglycan in staphylococci.

Author information

Department of Medicine, SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn 11203.


Although the monomeric units of peptidoglycan in Staphylococcus aureus and other staphylococci are well known, the complete structure of the peptidoglycan has not been elucidated. The peptidoglycan monomeric unit may be divided into three parts: (1) glycan chain piece, consisting of N-acetylglucosaminyl-N-acetylmuramic acid; (2) connecting peptide extending from L-alanine to the alpha-amino group of L-lysine; (3) peptide chain piece, consisting of D-alanine, the remainder of L-lysine not included in the connecting peptide, and pentaglycine (S. aureus) or mixed glycine and serine residues (other staphylococci) attached to the epsilon amino group of lysine. The deformation of cross wall into hemisphere in the course of cell division, the distensibility of peptidoglycan, and the appearance of circular (? spiral) lines in the cross wall and on the surface of the newly-formed hemisphere are clues to the structure of peptidoglycan. In the proposed model, cross wall is formed as a linear spiral with 20 turns extending in a plane from periphery to center of the cell. During cell division, the cross wall is bisected. The cross wall spiral becomes a spiral forming the peripheral wall of a new hemisphere. The width of the spiral on the cell surface is maintained by rigid glycan chains and by covalent bonds linking turns of the spiral. The length of the spiral is about 30 times the diameter of the cell. Flexible polypeptide sheets consisting of parallel polypeptide chains run along the length of the spiral. Individual polypeptides contain an average of ten peptide chain pieces. The glycan chain is a helix with two disaccharide residues per turn; consequently consecutive connecting peptides project in opposite directions and are perpendicular both to the glycan chain and to the peptide chain. In cross wall, hydrogen bonding between polypeptide chains enables the polypeptide sheet to transmit changes in tension. The deformation of cross wall into peripheral wall requires doubling of the external surface area of the peptidoglycan. A change in the angle of the glycan chain with respect to the peptide chain results in an increase of the distance between peptide chains, causing the doubling of surface area. Implications of the model include explanations for the initiation of cell division and for the existence of osmotically growth-dependent staphylococci.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center