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Arch Microbiol. 1997 Apr;167(4):239-50.

Two alternative mechanisms of cell separation in staphylococci: one lytic and one mechanical.

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Robert Koch-Institut, Nordufer 20, D-13353 Berlin, Germany.


Electron microscopy studies revealed two different mechanisms of cell separation in Staphylococcus aureus. Both mechanisms were initiated by the centrifugal lytic action (directed outward from the center) of murosomes, which perforated the peripheral cell wall. Thereafter, during the first type of cell separation, murosomes also lysed large parts of the cross wall proper in the opposite, i.e., centripetal direction, forming spokelike lytic lesions ("separation scars") next to the most prominent structure of the cross wall, the splitting system. This bidirectional lytic action of murosomes revealed that the staphylococcal cross wall is composed of permanent and transitory parts; transitory parts constituted about one-third of the volume of the total cross wall and seemed to be digested during cell separation. The second mechanism of cell separation was encountered within the splitting system, which has been regarded as the main control unit for lytic cell separation for more than 25 years. The splitting system, however, represents mainly a mechanical aid for cell separation and becomes effective when cell-wall autolytic activities are insufficient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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