Cell envelope stress response in Gram-positive bacteria

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2008 Jan;32(1):107-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2007.00091.x.


The bacterial cell envelope is the first and major line of defence against threats from the environment. It is an essential and yet vulnerable structure that gives the cell its shape and counteracts the high internal osmotic pressure. It also provides an important sensory interface and molecular sieve, mediating both information flow and the controlled transport of solutes. The cell envelope is also the target for numerous antibiotics. Therefore, the monitoring and maintenance of cell envelope integrity in the presence of envelope perturbating agents and conditions is crucial for survival. The underlying signal transduction is mediated by two regulatory principles, two-component systems and extracytoplasmic function sigma factors, in both the Firmicutes (low-GC) and Actinobacteria (high-GC) branches of Gram-positive bacteria. This study presents a comprehensive overview of cell envelope stress-sensing regulatory systems. This knowledge will then be applied for in-depth comparative genomics analyses to emphasize the distribution and conservation of cell envelope stress-sensing systems. Finally, the cell envelope stress response will be placed in the context of the overall cellular physiology, demonstrating that its regulatory systems are linked not only to other stress responses but also to the overall homeostasis and lifestyle of Gram-positive bacteria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Wall / drug effects
  • Cell Wall / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / physiology
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / ultrastructure
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / physiology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / ultrastructure
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Transcription Factors