Ligation of arabinogalactan to peptidoglycan in the cell wall of Mycobacterium smegmatis requires concomitant synthesis of the two wall polymers

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Colleges, School and Institutes


To study the late events of cell wall assembly in Mycobacterium smegmatis, specific in vivo radiolabelling of exponentially growing liquid cultures over periods of less than one cell generation were carried out. N-Acetyl-[(14)C]glucosamine was used to label peptidoglycan and [(14)C]glucose to label arabinogalactan and arabinomannan. Over periods of several generations, radioactive cell wall material was turned over as soluble autolysis products into the culture fluid. However, turnover of newly synthesized and labelled cell wall was delayed for about one cell generation, implying inside-to-outside growth of the wall as observed in BACILLUS: Little radioactive wall material was released into the culture fluid during the first generation of labelling in growing cultures, but the addition of amoxicillin plus the beta-lactamase inhibitor clavulanic acid, at the minimum inhibitory concentration of amoxicillin, led to the release of radioactive peptidoglycan that could be isolated by gel filtration chromatography and contained nearly 3 mol alanine per glutamic acid residue, indicating that it was linear, un-crosslinked peptidoglycan that had never been substantially cross-linked to the cell wall due to inhibition of transpeptidation by amoxicillin. This peptidoglycan had no covalently attached arabinogalactan. Radioactive arabinogalactan was synthesized and released from the amoxicillin-treated bacteria without attachment to peptidoglycan. The results indicate that during growth, incorporation of arabinogalactan into the cell wall requires its ligation to newly synthesized peptidoglycan and that the peptidoglycan must be undergoing concomitant cross-linking to the inner surface of the cell wall. Inhibition of peptidoglycan transpeptidation prevents ligation of arabinogalactan to peptidoglycan and its consequent incorporation into the wall.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3059-3067
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002