Lytic transglycosylases in macromolecular transport systems of Gram-negative bacteria

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2003 Nov;60(11):2371-88. doi: 10.1007/s00018-003-3056-1.


The cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria is essential for the integrity of the bacterial cell but also imposes a physical barrier to trans-envelope transport processes in which DNA and/or proteins are taken up or secreted by complex protein assemblies. The presence of genes encoding lytic transglycosylases in macromolecular transport systems (bacteriophage entry, type II secretion and type IV pilus synthesis, type III secretion, type IV secretion) suggests an important role for these specialised cell-wall-degrading enzymes. Such enzymes are capable of locally enlarging gaps in the peptidoglycan meshwork to allow the efficient assembly and anchoring of supramolecular transport complexes in the cell envelope. In this review, current knowledge on the role and distribution of these specialised murein-degrading enzymes in diverse macromolecular transport systems is summarised and discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacteriophages / physiology
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology
  • Glycosyltransferases / chemistry
  • Glycosyltransferases / physiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptidoglycan / metabolism
  • Protein Transport


  • Peptidoglycan
  • DNA
  • Glycosyltransferases