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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Evidence that the cell wall of Bacillus subtilis is protonated during respiration.

Several independent experiments suggest that cell walls of Bacillus subtilis are protonated during growth. When cells were grown in the presence of fluorescein-labeled dextran to saturate the cell walls, centrifuged, and suspended in PBS, fluorescence-activated cell sorter analyses revealed the bacteria were only poorly fluorescent. In contrast, when the bacteria were purged with N(2) to dissipate protonmotive force (pmf) fluorescence became intense. Upon reconstitution of the pmf with phenazine methosulfate, glucose, and oxygen, fluorescence declined. Another approach used pH-dependent chemical modification of cell walls. The walls of respiring B. subtilis cells were amenable to carboxylate modification by [(14)C]ethanolamine and 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide. The carbodiimide activation of carboxylate groups occurs only in acidic conditions. Upon dissipation of pmf the walls were refractory to chemical modification. Ammonium groups can be condensed with FITC in alkaline medium, but the condensation is very slow in acidic buffers. It was found that the derivatization of the walls with FITC could occur in the absence of pmf. The use of pH-dependent fluorophores and pH-dependent chemical modification reactions suggest that cell walls of respiring B. subtilis cells have a relatively low pH environment. This study shows a bacterium has a protonated compartment. Acidification of cell walls during growth may be one means of regulating autolytic enzymes.[1]


  1. Evidence that the cell wall of Bacillus subtilis is protonated during respiration. Calamita, H.G., Ehringer, W.D., Koch, A.L., Doyle, R.J. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (2001) [Pubmed]
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