Penicillin-binding site on the Escherichia coli cell envelope

J Bacteriol. 1986 Aug;167(2):492-5. doi: 10.1128/jb.167.2.492-495.1986.


The binding of 35S-labeled penicillin to distinct penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) of the "cell envelope" obtained from the sonication of Escherichia coli was studied at different pHs ranging from 4 to 11. At low pH, PBPs 1b, 1c, 2, and 3 demonstrated the greatest amount of binding. At high pH, these PBPs bound the least amount of penicillin. PBPs 1a and 5/6 exhibited the greatest amount of binding at pH 10 and the least amount at pH 4. With the exception of PBP 5/6, the effect of pH on the binding of penicillin was direct. Experiments distinguishing the effect of pH on penicillin binding by PBP 5/6 from its effect on beta-lactamase activity indicated that although substantial binding occurred at the lowest pH, the amount of binding increased with pH, reaching a maximum at pH 10. Based on earlier studies, it is proposed that the binding at high pH involves the formation of a covalent bond between the C-7 of penicillin and free epsilon amino groups of the PBPs. At pHs ranging from 4 to 8, position 1 of penicillin, occupied by sulfur, is considered to be the site that establishes a covalent bond with the sulfhydryl groups of PBP 5. The use of specific blockers of free epsilon amino groups or sulfhydryl groups indicated that wherever the presence of each had little or no effect on the binding of penicillin by PBP 5, the presence of both completely prevented binding. The specific blocker of the hydroxyl group of serine did not affect the binding of penicillin. These observations suggest that a molecule of penicillin forms simultaneous bonds between its S at position 1 and sulfhydryl groups of PBP 5 and between its C-7 and free epsilon amino groups of PBP 5.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins*
  • Carboxypeptidases / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cysteine
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure
  • Hexosyltransferases*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lysine
  • Muramoylpentapeptide Carboxypeptidase / metabolism*
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Penicillins / metabolism*
  • Peptidyl Transferases*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Penicillin-Binding Proteins
  • Penicillins
  • Peptidyl Transferases
  • Hexosyltransferases
  • Carboxypeptidases
  • Muramoylpentapeptide Carboxypeptidase
  • Lysine
  • Cysteine