Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 76, Issue 1–4, pp 159–184 | Cite as

The biosynthesis and functionality of the cell-wall of lactic acid bacteria

  • Jean DelcourEmail author
  • Thierry Ferain
  • Marie Deghorain
  • Emmanuelle Palumbo
  • Pascal Hols


The cell wall of lactic acid bacteria has the typical Gram-positive structure made of a thick, multilayered peptidoglycan sacculus decorated with proteins, teichoic acids and polysaccharides, and surrounded in some species by an outer shell of proteins packed in a paracrystalline layer (S-layer). Specific biochemical or genetic data on the biosynthesis pathways of the cell wall constituents are scarce in lactic acid bacteria, but together with genomics information they indicate close similarities with those described in Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, with one notable exception regarding the peptidoglycan precursor. In several species or strains of enterococci and lactobacilli, the terminal D-alanine residue of the muramyl pentapeptide is replaced by D-lactate or D-serine, which entails resistance to the glycopeptide antibiotic vancomycin. Diverse physiological functions may be assigned to the cell wall, which contribute to the technological and health-related attribut es of lactic acid bacteria. For instance, phage receptor activity relates to the presence of specific substituents on teichoic acids and polysaccharides; resistance to stress (UV radiation, acidic pH) depends on genes involved in peptidoglycan and teichoic acid biosynthesis; autolysis is controlled by the degree of esterification of teichoic acids with D-alanine; mucosal immunostimulation may result from interactions between epithelial cells and peptidoglycan or teichoic acids.

autolysin cell wall D-alanine D-serine lactic acid bacteria peptidoglycan polysaccharide S-layer teichoic acid vancomycin 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Delcour
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thierry Ferain
    • 1
  • Marie Deghorain
    • 1
  • Emmanuelle Palumbo
    • 1
  • Pascal Hols
    • 1
  1. 1.Université Catholique de Louvain, Unité de GénétiqueLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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