Mycobacterial cell wall: structure and role in natural resistance to antibiotics

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1994 Oct 15;123(1-2):11-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.1994.tb07194.x.


Mycobacteria show a high degree of intrinsic resistance to most antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents. The low permeability of the mycobacterial cell wall, with its unusual structure, is now known to be a major factor in this resistance. Thus hydrophilic agents cross the cell wall slowly because the mycobacterial porin is inefficient in allowing the permeation of solutes and exists in low concentration. Lipophilic agents are presumably slowed down by the lipid bilayer which is of unusually low fluidity and abnormal thickness. Nevertheless, the cell wall barrier alone cannot produce significant levels of drug resistance, which requires synergistic contribution from a second factor, such as the enzymatic inactivation of drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Wall*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Models, Biological
  • Mycobacterium / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium / ultrastructure*