Discovery of chlamydial peptidoglycan reveals bacteria with murein sacculi but without FtsZ

Nature Communications
Martin PilhoferGrant J Jensen


Chlamydiae are important pathogens and symbionts with unique cell biological features. They lack the cell-division protein FtsZ, and the existence of peptidoglycan (PG) in their cell wall has been highly controversial. FtsZ and PG together function in orchestrating cell division and maintaining cell shape in almost all other bacteria. Using electron cryotomography, mass spectrometry and fluorescent labelling dyes, here we show that some environmental chlamydiae have cell wall sacculi consisting of a novel PG type. Treatment with fosfomycin (a PG synthesis inhibitor) leads to lower infection rates and aberrant cell shapes, suggesting that PG synthesis is crucial for the chlamydial life cycle. Our findings demonstrate for the first time the presence of PG in a member of the Chlamydiae. They also present a unique example of a bacterium with a PG sacculus but without FtsZ, challenging the current hypothesis that it is the absence of a cell wall that renders FtsZ non-essential.


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Methods Mentioned

electron microscopy
electron cryotomography
light microscopy

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Bacterial cell walls are made of peptidoglycan (also called murein), which is made from polysaccharide chains cross-linked by unusual peptides containing D-amino acids. Here is the latest research on bacterial cell wall structures.

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