Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, 92:1

Peptidoglycan turnover and recycling in Gram-positive bacteria


DOI: 10.1007/s00253-011-3486-x

Cite this article as:
Reith, J. & Mayer, C. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2011) 92: 1. doi:10.1007/s00253-011-3486-x


Bacterial cells are protected by an exoskeleton, the stabilizing and shape-maintaining cell wall, consisting of the complex macromolecule peptidoglycan. In view of its function, it could be assumed that the cell wall is a static structure. In truth, however, it is steadily broken down by peptidoglycan-cleaving enzymes during cell growth. In this process, named cell wall turnover, in one generation up to half of the preexisting peptidoglycan of a bacterial cell is released from the wall. This would result in a massive loss of cell material, if turnover products were not be taken up and recovered. Indeed, in the Gram-negative model organism Escherichia coli, peptidoglycan recovery has been recognized as a complex pathway, named cell wall recycling. It involves about a dozen dedicated recycling enzymes that convey cell wall turnover products to peptidoglycan synthesis or energy pathways. Whether Gram-positive bacteria also recover their cell wall is currently questioned. Given the much larger portion of peptidoglycan in the cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria, however, recovery of the wall material would provide an even greater benefit in these organisms compared to Gram-negatives. Consistently, in many Gram-positives, orthologs of recycling enzymes were identified, indicating that the cell wall may also be recycled in these organisms. This mini-review provides a compilation of information about cell wall turnover and recycling in Gram-positive bacteria during cell growth and division, including recent findings relating to muropeptide recovery in Bacillus subtilis and Clostridium acetobutylicum from our group. Furthermore, the impact of cell wall turnover and recycling on biotechnological processes is discussed.


Peptidoglycan turnoverMurein hydrolaseMuramidaseCell wall recyclingAutolysinsMuropeptide recovery

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fachbereich Biologie, Molekulare MikrobiologieUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  2. 2.Interfakultäres Institut für Mikrobiologie und Infektionsmedizin Tübingen IMIT, Mikrobiologie/BiotechnologieEberhard Karls Universität TübingenTübingenGermany