Dispersed mode of Staphylococcus aureus cell wall synthesis in the absence of the division machinery

Mol Microbiol. 2003 Nov;50(3):871-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03719.x.


We have developed several new fluorescent staining procedures that enabled us to study the synthesis of cell wall material in the spherical Gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. The results obtained support previous proposals that these cells synthesize new wall material specifically at cell division sites, in the form of a flat circular plate that is subsequently cleaved and remodelled to produce the new hemispherical poles of the daughter cells. We have shown that formation of the septal peptidoglycan is dependent on the key cell division protein FtsZ, which recruits penicillin-binding protein (PBP) 2. Unexpectedly, in FtsZ-depleted cells, the cell wall synthetic machinery becomes dispersed and new wall material is made in dispersed patches over the entire surface of the cells, which increase in volume by up to eightfold before lysing. The results have implications for understanding the nature of S. aureus morphogenesis and for inhibitors of cell division proteins as drug targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Genes, Lethal
  • Hexosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Muramoylpentapeptide Carboxypeptidase / metabolism
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Peptidyl Transferases / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / cytology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins / genetics
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • FtsZ protein, Bacteria
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • Peptidyl Transferases
  • Hexosyltransferases
  • Muramoylpentapeptide Carboxypeptidase