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Biochem J. 1971 Mar;121(5):791-802.

Autolysis of Bacillus cereus cell walls and isolation of structural components.


Autolysis of Bacillus cereus N.R.R.L. 569 cell walls was accompanied by hydrolysis of the majority of the 4-O-beta-N-acetylglucosaminyl-N-acetylmuramic acid linkages in mucopeptide, presumably by an endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase. Hydrolysis of the N-acetylmuramyl-l-alanine linkages by an amidase also occurred. Free d-alanine residues were detected in isolated cell walls and the proportion of these residues increased during autolysis, presumably due to d-alanine carboxypeptidase action. Fractionation and analysis of the products of autolysis confirmed these results. Among the products originating from mucopeptide were a disaccharide, N-acetylmuramyl-N-acetylglucosamine, and a tetrapeptide of sequence l-Ala-d-Glu-meso-Dap-d-Ala (Dap=diaminopimelate). A dimer fraction containing a d-Ala-meso-Dap cross-link was also isolated. Two polysaccharides were obtained from the products of autolysed cell walls and from walls made soluble by Chalaropsis B glycosidase. A neutral polysaccharide accounted for about 40% of the wall and contained N-acetylglucosamine, N-acetylgalactosamine and glucose. The neutral polysaccharide isolated from wall autolysates was attached to a part of the glycan moiety of mucopeptide. The molecular weight of the complex was approx. 28000. Stoicheiometric amounts of phosphorus were present, possibly in linkages between the polysaccharide and mucopeptide moieties. The second polysaccharide accounted for 12% of the wall and was very acidic. After acidic hydrolysis of the polysaccharide, glucosamine, galactosamine and unidentified acidic substances were detected. The acid polysaccharide isolated from wall autolysates contained only traces of mucopeptide constituents and no phosphorus.

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