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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1997 Jun;20(1-2):99-149.

Functions of S-layers.

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Department of Microbiology, College of Biological Science, University of Guelph, Canada.


Although S-layers are being increasingly identified on Bacteria and Archaea, it is enigmatic that in most cases S-layer function continues to elude us. In a few instances, S-layers have been shown to be virulence factors on pathogens (e.g. Campylobacter fetus ssp. fetus and Aeromonas salmonicida), protective against Bdellovibrio, a depository for surface-exposed enzymes (e.g. Bacillus stearothermophilus), shape-determining agents (e.g. Thermoproteus tenax) and nucleation factors for fine-grain mineral development (e.g. Synechococcus GL 24). Yet, for the vast majority of S-layered bacteria, the natural function of these crystalline arrays continues to be evasive. The following review up-dates the functional basis of S-layers and describes such diverse topics as the effect of S-layers on the Gram stain, bacteriophage adsorption in lactobacilli, phagocytosis by human polymorphonuclear leukocytes, the adhesion of a high-molecular-mass amylase, outer membrane porosity, and the secretion of extracellular enzymes of Thermoanaerobacterium. In addition, the functional aspect of calcium on the Caulobacter S-layer is explained.

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