Peptidoglycan, also known as murein, is a polymer consisting of sugars and amino acids that forms a mesh-like layer outside the plasma membrane of bacteria (but not Archaea), forming the cell wall. The sugar component consists of alternating residues of β-(1,4) linked N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetylmuramic acid. Attached to the N-acetylmuramic acid is a peptide chain of three to five amino acids. The peptide chain can be cross-linked to the peptide chain of another strand forming the 3D mesh-like layer.[1] Some Archaea have a similar layer of pseudopeptidoglycan or pseudomurein, where the sugar residues are β-(1,3) linked N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetyltalosaminuronic acid. That is why the cell wall of Archaea is insensitive to lysozyme.[2] Peptidoglycan serves a structural role in the bacterial cell wall, giving structural strength, as well as counteracting the osmotic pressure of the cytoplasm. A common misconception is that peptidoglycan gives the cell its shape; however, whereas peptidoglycan helps maintain the structural strength of the cell, it is actually the MreB protein that facilitates cell shape[citation needed].[3][4] Peptidoglycan is also involved in binary fission during bacterial cell reproduction.

The peptidoglycan layer is substantially thicker in Gram-positive bacteria (20 to 80 nanometers) than in Gram-negative bacteria (7 to 8 nanometers), with the attachment of the S-layer. Peptidoglycan forms around 90% of the dry weight of Gram-positive bacteria but only 10% of Gram-negative strains. Thus, presence of high levels of peptidoglycan is the primary determinant of the characterisation of bacteria as gram-positive.[5] In Gram-positive strains, it is important in attachment roles and stereotyping purposes.[6] For both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, particles of approximately 2 nm can pass through the peptidoglycan.[7]




The peptidoglycan layer in the bacterial cell wall is a crystal lattice structure formed from linear chains of two alternating amino sugars, namely N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc or NAG) and N-acetylmuramic acid (MurNAc or NAM). The alternating sugars are connected by a β-(1,4)-glycosidic bond. Each MurNAc is attached to a short (4- to 5-residue) amino acid chain, containing D-alanine, D-glutamic acid, and meso-diaminopimelic acid in the case of Escherichia coli (a Gram negative bacteria) or L-alanine, D-glutamine, L-lysine, and D-alanine in the case of Staphylococcus aureus (a Gram positive bacteria). These amino acids, except the L-amino acids, do not occur in proteins and are thought to help protect against attacks by most peptidases[citation needed].

Cross-linking between amino acids in different linear amino sugar chains occurs with the help of the enzyme transpeptidase and results in a 3-dimensional structure that is strong and rigid. The specific amino acid sequence and molecular structure vary with the bacterial species.[8]

Antibiotic inhibition

Some antibacterial drugs such as penicillin interfere with the production of peptidoglycan by binding to bacterial enzymes known as penicillin-binding proteins or transpeptidases.[6] Penicillin-binding proteins form the bonds between oligopeptide crosslinks in peptidoglycan. For a bacterial cell to reproduce through binary fission, more than a million peptidoglycan subunits (NAM-NAG+oligopeptide) must be attached to existing subunits.[9] Mutations in transpeptidases that lead to reduced interactions with an antibiotic are a significant source of emerging antibiotic resistance.[10]

Considered the human body's own antibiotic, lysozymes found in tears work by breaking the β-(1,4)-glycosidic bonds in peptidoglycan (see below) and thereby destroying many bacterial cells. Antibiotics such as penicillin commonly target bacterial cell wall formation (of which peptidoglycan is an important component) because animal cells do not have cell walls.


The peptidoglycan monomers are synthesized in the cytosol and are then attached to a membrane carrier bactoprenol. Bactoprenol transports peptidoglycan monomers across the cell membrane where they are inserted into the existing peptidoglycan.[11]

In the first step of peptidoglycan synthesis, the glutamine, which is an amino acid, donates an amino group to a sugar, fructose 6-phosphate. This turns fructose 6-phosphate into glucosamine-6-phosphate. In step two, an acetyl group is transferred from acetyl CoA to the amino group on the glucosamine-6-phosphate creating UTP. Uridine triphosphate, which is a pyrimidine nucleotide, has the ability to act as an energy source. When UDP is used as an energy source, it gives off an inorganic phosphate. In this particular reaction after the monophosphate has attacked the UTP, a phosphate is given off as pyrophosphate, an inorganic phosphate, and is replaced by the monophosphate, creating UDP-Nacetylglucosamine (2,4. This initial stage, is used to create the precursor for the NAG in peptidoglycan.

In step 5, some of the UDP-Nacetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) is converted to UDP-MurNAc (UDP-N acetylmuramic acid) by the addition of a lactyl group to the glucosamine. Also in this reaction, C3 hydroxyl group will remove a phosphate form the alpha carbon of phosphenol pyruvate. This creates what is called an enol derivative that will be reduced to a “lactyl moiety” by NADPH in step six.[12]

In step 7, the UDP –MurNAc is converted to UDP-MurNAC pentapeptide by the addition of five different amino acids as well as the dipeptide D-alanyl-D-alanine.[12] Each of these reactions requires the energy source ATP.[12] This is all referred to as Stage one.

Stage two is occurs in the cytoplasmic membrane. It is in the membrane where a lipid carrier called bactoprenol carries peptidoglycan precursors through the cell membrane. Bactoprenol will attack the UDP-MurNAc penta, creating a PP-MurNac penta, which is now a lipid. UDP-GlcNAc is then transformed into MurNAc, creating Lipid-PP-MurNAc penta-GlcNAc, a disaccharide, also a precursor to peptidoglycan.[12] How this molecule is transported through the membrane is still not understood. However, once it is there, it is added to the growing glycan chain.[12] The next reaction is known as tranglycosylation. In the reaction, the hydroxyl group of the GlcNAc will attach to the MurNAc in the glycan, which will displace the lipid-PP from the glycan chain. The enzyme responsible for this is transglycosylase.[12]

Peptidoglycan chain extension

See also


  1. ^ Animation of Synthesis of Peptidoglycan Layer
  2. ^ Madigan, M. T., J. M. Martinko, P. V. Dunlap, and D. P. Clark. Brock biology of microorganisms. 12th ed. San Francisco, CA: Pearson/Benjamin Cummings, 2009.
  3. ^ van den Ent F, Amos LA, Löwe J (2001). "Prokaryotic origin of the actin cytoskeleton.". Nature 413 (6851): 39-44. doi:10.1038/35092500. PMID 11544518. 
  4. ^ van den Ent F, Johnson CM, Persons L, de Boer P, Löwe J (2010). "Bacterial actin MreB assembles in complex with cell shape protein RodZ.". EMBO J 29 (6): 1081-90. doi:10.1038/emboj.2010.9. PMC PMC2845281. PMID 20168300. 
  5. ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2010. Bacteria. Encyclopedia of Earth. eds. Sidney Draggan and C.J.Cleveland, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC
  6. ^ a b Salton MRJ, Kim KS (1996). Structure. In: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Barron S et al., eds.) (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. ISBN 0-9631172-1-1. 
  7. ^ Demchick PH, Koch AL (1 February 1996). "The permeability of the wall fabric of Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis". Journal of Bacteriology 178 (3): 768–73. PMC 177723. PMID 8550511. 
  8. ^ Ryan KJ, Ray CG (editors) (2004). Sherris Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-8385-8529-9. 
  9. ^ Bauman R (2007). 2nd. ed. Microbiology with Diseases by Taxonomy. Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 0-8053-7679-8. 
  10. ^ Spratt BG (April 1994). "Resistance to antibiotics mediated by target alterations". Science (New York) 264 (5157): 388–93. doi:10.1126/science.8153626. PMID 8153626. 
  11. ^ "II. THE PROKARYOTIC CELL: BACTERIA". Retrieved 1. MAY 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h White, D. (2007). The physiology and biochemistry of prokaryates (3rd ed.). NY: Oxford University Press Inc.. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Peptidoglycan — Peptidoglycane (PGN), Peptidoglykane, Murein, selten auch Polysaccharid Peptide genannt, sind aus Zuckern und Aminosäuren zusammengesetzte Makromoleküle, die in der Zellwand von Bakterien vorkommen. Sowohl grampositive als auch gramnegative… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • peptidoglycan — glikopeptidas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Oligopeptido ir polisacharido junginys. atitikmenys: angl. glycopeptide; peptidoglycan; peptidoglycane rus. гликопептид; пептидогликан ryšiai: sinonimas – peptidoglikanas …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • peptidoglycan — noun Date: 1966 a polymer that is composed of polysaccharide and peptide chains and is found especially in bacterial cell walls called also mucopeptide, murein …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • peptidoglycan — (pep tī do gli kan) A large polymer composed of long chains of alternating N acetylglucosamine and N acetylmuramic acid residues. The polysaccharide chains are linked to each other through connections between tetrapeptide chains attached to the N …   Dictionary of microbiology

  • peptidoglycan — (= murein) Cross linked polysaccharide peptide complex of indefinite size found in the inner cell wall of all bacteria (50% of the wall in Gram negative, 10% in Gram positive). Consists of chains of approximately 20 residues of b (1 4) linked N… …   Dictionary of molecular biology

  • peptidoglycan — pep·ti·do·gly·can (pĕp tĭ dō glīʹkən, kăn ) n. A polymer found in the cell walls of prokaryotes that consists of polysaccharide and peptide chains in a strong molecular network. Also called mucopeptide, murein.   [peptide + glycan, a… …   Universalium

  • peptidoglycan — noun A polymer of glycan and peptides found in bacterial cell walls Syn: mucopeptide …   Wiktionary

  • peptidoglycan — A compound containing amino acid s (or peptides) linked to sugars, with the latter preponderant. Cf.:glycopeptide. SYN: mucopeptide (2). * * * pep·ti·do·gly·can .pep təd ō glī .kan n a polymer that is composed of polysaccharide and peptide chains …   Medical dictionary

  • peptidoglycan — pep·ti·do·glycan …   English syllables

  • peptidoglycan — ¦pepˌtīdōˌ noun Etymology: peptide + o + glycan : a polymer that is composed of polysaccharide and peptide chains and is found especially in bacterial cell walls called also mucopeptide murein …   Useful english dictionary

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