Cell Wall Growth Visualized In Live Bacteria | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 43 | p. 35 | Concentrates
Issue Date: October 22, 2012

Cell Wall Growth Visualized In Live Bacteria

Technique monitors peptidoglycan biosynthesis in live cells in real time
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Analytical SCENE, Biological SCENE
Keywords: peptidoglycan, cell wall, bacteria, D-amino acids, fluorescence
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Live filamentous bacteria treated sequentially with fluorescently labeled d-amino acids of different colors show cell wall regions synthesized at different times.
Credit: Courtesy of Erkin Kuru
A rough “H” shape is made of a glowing tube. Several small areas are glowing with rainbow colors.
 
Live filamentous bacteria treated sequentially with fluorescently labeled d-amino acids of different colors show cell wall regions synthesized at different times.
Credit: Courtesy of Erkin Kuru

A new technique that incorporates fluorescently labeled d-amino acids into bacteria makes it possible to observe biosynthesis of peptidoglycans, the major component of cell walls, in real time. The dynamics of cell- wall construction are incompletely understood, in part because of limitations in current techniques for observing peptidoglycan synthesis. “Commonly, these methods are labor-intensive, and their sensitivity suffers from their indirect and multiple-step nature,” write Yves V. Brun and Michael S. VanNieuwenhze of Indiana University, Bloomington, and coworkers in a paper in Angewandte Chemie International Edition (DOI: 10.1002/anie.201206749). To address that issue, the researchers constructed fluorescent d-amino acids that emit various colors. The compounds label peptidoglycans at sites of peptidoglycan synthesis in bacteria, and their fluorescence can be observed in the microbes’ newly synthesized cell walls. Different colors can be applied to the bacteria sequentially to monitor sites of peptidoglycan synthesis over time and obtain time-dependent images of cell-wall growth. “In combination with fluorescent fusion proteins, mutational analysis, and chemical perturbations, this methodology will allow a comprehensive analysis of the regulation and coordination of bacterial growth,” the researchers note.

 
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