The Cell Wall of Streptococcus pneumoniae

Microbiol Spectr. 2019 May;7(3). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.GPP3-0018-2018.


Streptococcus pneumoniae has a complex cell wall that plays key roles in cell shape maintenance, growth and cell division, and interactions with components of the human host. The peptidoglycan has a heterogeneous composition with more than 50 subunits (muropeptides)-products of several peptidoglycan-modifying enzymes. The amidation of glutamate residues in the stem peptide is needed for efficient peptide cross-linking, and peptides with a dipeptide branch prevail in some beta-lactam-resistant strains. The glycan strands are modified by deacetylation of N-acetylglucosamine residues and O-acetylation of N-acetylmuramic acid residues, and both modifications contribute to pneumococcal resistance to lysozyme. The glycan strands carry covalently attached wall teichoic acid and capsular polysaccharide. Pneumococci are unique in that the wall teichoic acid and lipoteichoic acid contain the same unusually complex repeating units decorated with phosphoryl choline residues, which anchor the choline-binding proteins. The structures of lipoteichoic acid and the attachment site of wall teichoic acid to peptidoglycan have recently been revised. During growth, pneumococci assemble their cell walls at midcell in coordinated rounds of cell elongation and division, leading to the typical ovococcal cell shape. Cell wall growth depends on the cytoskeletal FtsA and FtsZ proteins and is regulated by several morphogenesis proteins that also show patterns of dynamic localization at midcell. Some of the key regulators are phosphorylated by StkP and dephosphorylated by PhpP to facilitate robust selection of the division site and plane and to maintain cell shape.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Wall / chemistry*
  • Cell Wall / metabolism*
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Muramic Acids
  • Muramidase
  • Operon
  • Penicillin Resistance
  • Peptidoglycan / biosynthesis
  • Peptidoglycan / chemistry
  • Phosphorylation
  • Polysaccharides
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / chemistry*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / metabolism*
  • Teichoic Acids
  • beta-Lactam Resistance


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • FtsA protein, Bacteria
  • FtsZ protein, Bacteria
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Muramic Acids
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Polysaccharides
  • Teichoic Acids
  • N-acetylmuramic acid
  • lipoteichoic acid
  • Muramidase
  • Choline
  • Acetylglucosamine