, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 817-831,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Dec 2010

Emerging knowledge of regulatory roles of d-amino acids in bacteria


The d-enantiomers of amino acids have been thought to have relatively minor functions in biological processes. While l-amino acids clearly predominate in nature, d-amino acids are sometimes found in proteins that are not synthesized by ribosomes, and d-Ala and d-Glu are routinely found in the peptidoglycan cell wall of bacteria. Here, we review recent findings showing that d-amino acids have previously unappreciated regulatory roles in the bacterial kingdom. Many diverse bacterial phyla synthesize and release d-amino acids, including d-Met and d-Leu, which were not previously known to be made. These noncanonical d-amino acids regulate cell wall remodeling in stationary phase and cause biofilm dispersal in aging bacterial communities. Elucidating the mechanisms by which d-amino acids govern cell wall remodeling and biofilm disassembly will undoubtedly reveal new paradigms for understanding how extracytoplasmic processes are regulated as well as lead to development of novel therapeutics.