Peptidoglycan maturation controls outer membrane protein assembly

Gideon Mamou, Federico Corona, Ruth Cohen-Khait, Nicholas G Housden, Vivian Yeung, Dawei Sun, Pooja Sridhar, Manuel Pazos, Timothy J Knowles, Colin Kleanthous, Waldemar Vollmer

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Linkages between the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and the peptidoglycan layer are crucial for the maintenance of cellular integrity and enable survival in challenging environments 1-5. The function of the outer membrane is dependent on outer membrane proteins (OMPs), which are inserted into the membrane by the β-barrel assembly machine 6,7 (BAM). Growing Escherichia coli cells segregate old OMPs towards the poles by a process known as binary partitioning, the basis of which is unknown 8. Here we demonstrate that peptidoglycan underpins the spatiotemporal organization of OMPs. Mature, tetrapeptide-rich peptidoglycan binds to BAM components and suppresses OMP foldase activity. Nascent peptidoglycan, which is enriched in pentapeptides and concentrated at septa 9, associates with BAM poorly and has little effect on its activity, leading to preferential insertion of OMPs at division sites. The synchronization of OMP biogenesis with cell wall growth results in the binary partitioning of OMPs as cells divide. Our study reveals that Gram-negative bacteria coordinate the assembly of two major cell envelope layers by rendering OMP biogenesis responsive to peptidoglycan maturation, a potential vulnerability that could be exploited in future antibiotic design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-959
Number of pages7
Issue number7916
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins/chemistry
  • Cell Membrane/chemistry
  • Cell Wall/metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins/chemistry
  • Escherichia coli/chemistry
  • Peptidoglycan/biosynthesis
  • Protein Folding


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