Inroads through the bacterial cell envelope: seeing is believing

Can J Microbiol. 2018 Sep;64(9):601-617. doi: 10.1139/cjm-2018-0091.


A singular feature of all prokaryotic cells is the presence of a cell envelope composed of a cytoplasmic membrane and a cell wall. The introduction of bacterial cell fractionation techniques in the 1950s and 1960s along with developments in procedures for electron microscopy opened the window towards an understanding of the chemical composition and architecture of the cell envelope. This review traces the contribution of Terry Beveridge in these endeavours, beginning with his doctoral studies in the 1970s on the structure of paracrystalline surface arrays (S-layers), followed by an exploration of cryogenic methods for preserving bacteria for ultrastructural analyses. His insights are reflected in a current example of the contribution of cryo-electron microscopy to S-layer studies - the structure and assembly of the surface array of Caulobacter crescentus. The review then focuses on Terry's contributions to imaging the ultrastructure of bacterial cell envelopes and to the development of cryo-electron microscopy techniques, including the use of CEMOVIS (Cryo-electron Microscopy of Vitreous Sections) to "see" the ultrastructure of the Gram-positive cell envelope - his last scientific endeavour.

Keywords: CEMOVIS; Terry J. Beveridge; cell envelope; couches de surface; cryo-electron microscopy; cryomicroscopie électronique; enveloppe cellulaire; surface layers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy