Murein (peptidoglycan) structure, architecture and biosynthesis in Escherichia coli

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Sep;1778(9):1714-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2007.06.007. Epub 2007 Jun 16.


The periplasmic murein (peptidoglycan) sacculus is a giant macromolecule made of glycan strands cross-linked by short peptides completely surrounding the cytoplasmic membrane to protect the cell from lysis due to its internal osmotic pressure. More than 50 different muropeptides are released from the sacculus by treatment with a muramidase. Escherichia coli has six murein synthases which enlarge the sacculus by transglycosylation and transpeptidation of lipid II precursor. A set of twelve periplasmic murein hydrolases (autolysins) release murein fragments during cell growth and division. Recent data on the in vitro murein synthesis activities of the murein synthases and on the interactions between murein synthases, hydrolases and cell cycle related proteins are being summarized. There are different models for the architecture of murein and for the incorporation of new precursor into the sacculus. We present a model in which morphogenesis of the rod-shaped E. coli is driven by cytoskeleton elements competing for the control over the murein synthesis multi-enzyme complexes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Catalysis
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / metabolism
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / physiology
  • Peptide Synthases / metabolism
  • Peptide Synthases / physiology
  • Peptidoglycan* / biosynthesis
  • Peptidoglycan* / chemistry
  • Peptidoglycan* / ultrastructure
  • Protein Binding
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Peptidoglycan
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase
  • Peptide Synthases
  • murein synthetase