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J Bacteriol. 1976 Mar;125(3):1195-206.

Bacteriophage SP50 as a marker for cell wall growth in Bacillus subtilis.


When grown under conditions of phosphate limitation, Bacillus subtilis W23 lacked wall teichoic acid and did not adsorb phage SP50. During transition from growth under conditions of phosphate limitation to those of potassium limitation, the bacteria developed an ability to adsorb phage which increased exponentially in relation to their content of wall teichoic acid. During transition in the reverse direction, the bacteria retained near-maximum phage-binding properties until their content of wall teichoic acid had fallen to a fairly low level. These observations suggest that newly incorporated wall material does not immediately appear at the cell surface in a structure to which phage can adsorb. Examination of the location of adsorbed phage particles showed that recently incorporated receptor material appeared at the cell surface first along the length of the cylindrical portion of the cell. The results are consistent with models of wall assembly in which newly synthesized wall material is intercalated at a large number of sites that are distributed along the length of the cell. This newly incorporated material may be located initially at a level underlying the surface of the cell and may become exposed at the surface only during subsequent growth. Incorporation of new material may also proceed rapidly into the developing septa, but new wall material is incorporated into existing polar caps more slowly, or perhaps not at all.

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