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Bioessays. 2007 Dec;29(12):1189-91.

Bacterial L-forms require peptidoglycan synthesis for cell division.

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Departamento de Genética, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla, Apartado 1095, E-41080 Sevilla, Spain.


Cell-wall-less bacterial variants, or L-forms, have been described in many bacterial species under laboratory conditions, in infected eukaryotic cell cultures and inside animals. Of special interest for human health is the formation of L-forms as a consequence of specific antibiotic treatments, and the potential involvement of L-forms in persistent and relapsing infections. An old enigma about L-forms is how they can divide in the absence of cell wall synthesis, since septum formation is an essential requisite for cell division. However, the classical definition of L-forms as cell-wall-less bacterial variants may need a revision to accommodate recent observations by Richard d'Ari and coworkers: genetic and biochemical evidence indicates that E. coli L-forms induced by beta-lactam antibiotics do contain small amounts of peptidoglycan, essential for their growth and probably required for septum formation. If these observations are extrapolated to all known L-forms, the very concept of cell-wall-less bacteria may need revision, and be restricted to mycoplasmas and their relatives.

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