Structural Research on Surface Layers: A Focus on Stability, Surface Layer Homology Domains, and Surface Layer-Cell Wall Interactions

J Struct Biol. 1998 Dec 15;124(2-3):276-302. doi: 10.1006/jsbi.1998.4070.


Surface layers (S-layers) from Bacteria and Archaea are built from protein molecules arrayed in a two-dimensional lattice, forming the outermost cell wall layer in many prokaryotes. In almost half a century of S-layer research a wealth of structural, biochemical, and genetic data have accumulated, but it has not been possible to correlate sequence data with the tertiary structure of S-layer proteins to date. In this paper, some highlights of structural aspects of archaeal and bacterial S-layers that allow us to draw some conclusions on molecular properties are reviewed. We focus on the structural requirements for the extraordinary stability of many S-layer proteins, the structural and functional aspects of the S-layer homology domain found in S-layers, extracellular enzymes and related functional proteins, and outer membrane proteins, and the molecular interactions of S-layer proteins with other cell wall components. Finally, the perspectives and requirements for structural research on S-layers, which indicate that the investigation of isolated protein domains will be a prerequisite for solving S-layer structures at atomic resolution, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Archaea / ultrastructure*
  • Archaeal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Archaeal Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Bacteria / ultrastructure*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Wall / physiology*
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins