Peptidoglycan architecture can specify division planes in Staphylococcus aureus

Nat Commun. 2010 Jun 15;1:26. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1025.


Division in Staphylococci occurs equatorially and on specific sequentially orthogonal planes in three dimensions, resulting, after incomplete cell separation, in the 'bunch of grapes' cluster organization that defines the genus. The shape of Staphylococci is principally maintained by peptidoglycan. In this study, we use Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and fluorescence microscopy with vancomycin labelling to examine purified peptidoglycan architecture and its dynamics in Staphylococcus aureus and correlate these with the cell cycle. At the presumptive septum, cells were found to form a large belt of peptidoglycan in the division plane before the centripetal formation of the septal disc; this often had a 'piecrust' texture. After division, the structures remain as orthogonal ribs, encoding the location of past division planes in the cell wall. We propose that this epigenetic information is used to enable S. aureus to divide in sequentially orthogonal planes, explaining how a spherical organism can maintain division plane localization with fidelity over many generations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Peptidoglycan / metabolism*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / cytology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*


  • Peptidoglycan