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L-form bacteria, cell walls and the origins of life

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jeff Errington FRSORCiD


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The peptidoglycan wall is a defining feature of bacterial cells and was probably already present in their last common ancestor. L-forms are bacterial variants that lack a cell wall and divide by a variety of processes involving membrane blebbing, tubulation, vesiculation and fission. Their unusual mode of proliferation provides a model for primitive cells and is reminiscent of recently developed in vitro vesicle reproduction processes. Invention of the cell wall may have underpinned the explosion of bacterial life on the Earth. Later innovations in cell envelope structure, particularly the emergence of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, possibly in an early endospore former, seem to have spurned further major evolutionary radiations. Comparative studies of bacterial cell envelope structure may help to resolve the early key steps in evolutionary development of the bacterial domain of life.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Errington J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Open Biology

Year: 2013

Volume: 3

Print publication date: 09/01/2013

ISSN (electronic): 2046-2441

Publisher: ROYAL SOC


DOI: 10.1098/rsob.120143

Notes: Article no. 120143 is 7 pp.