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

Correlation between degradation and ultrastructure of peptidoglycan during autolysis of Escherichia coli.

The kinetics of peptidoglycan degradation were examined under different conditions of autolysis of Escherichia coli. With cephaloridine- or moenomycin-induced autolysis, degradation did not exceed 25 to 35%, whereas in EDTA-induced autolysis it rapidly reached 65 to 70%. When nonautolyzing cells were fixed overnight with glutaraldehyde, followed by an osmium fixation, and thin sections were stained by the phosphotungstic acid method, a dark, 15-nm-thick layer of uniform appearance and constant width occupied the whole area between the inner and outer membranes of the envelope. The stained material was tentatively identified with peptidoglycan. Ultrastructural changes in this phosphotungstic acid-stained periplasmic space were investigated at different time intervals after induction of autolysis. In all cases, breakdown proceeded over the whole cell surface. During antibiotic-induced autolysis a progressive thinning down limited to the inner side of the layer was observed. During EDTA-induced autolysis, the rapid decrease in thickness correlated well with the important loss of material labeled with [3H]diaminopimelic acid. Considering these changes and the insufficient amounts of peptidoglycan (1.3 U/nm2) necessary to account for a regularly structured polymer occupying the whole 15-nm layer, it was speculated that peptidoglycan might be unevenly distributed throughout the periplasmic space.[1]


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