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

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jacob BiboyORCiD, Dr Joseph Gray, Professor Waldemar Vollmer


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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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pilhofer M, Aistleitner K, Biboy J, Gray J, Kuru E, Hall E, Brun YV, VanNieuwenhze MS, Vollmer W, Horn M, Jensen GJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Communications

Year: 2013

Volume: 4

Print publication date: 02/12/2013

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1723

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3856


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Funder referenceFunder name
European Research Council (ERC StG 'EvoChlamy')
Caltech Center for Environmental Microbiology Interactions
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Y277-B03Austrian Science Fund FWF