TitleHelical insertion of peptidoglycan produces chiral ordering of the bacterial cell wall.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWang, S, Furchtgott, L, Huang, KCasey, Shaevitz, JW
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2012 Mar 6
KeywordsBacillus subtilis, Bacterial Proteins, Biophysics, Cell Wall, Computational Biology, Cytoskeleton, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli Proteins, Osmotic Pressure, Peptides, Peptidoglycan, Polysaccharides

The regulation of cell shape is a common challenge faced by organisms across all biological kingdoms. In nearly all bacteria, cell shape is determined by the architecture of the peptidoglycan cell wall, a macromolecule consisting of glycan strands crosslinked by peptides. In addition to shape, cell growth must also maintain the wall structural integrity to prevent lysis due to large turgor pressures. Robustness can be accomplished by establishing a globally ordered cell-wall network, although how a bacterium generates and maintains peptidoglycan order on the micron scale using nanometer-sized proteins remains a mystery. Here, we demonstrate that left-handed chirality of the MreB cytoskeleton in the rod-shaped bacterium Escherichia coli gives rise to a global, right-handed chiral ordering of the cell wall. Local, MreB-guided insertion of material into the peptidoglycan network naturally orders the glycan strands and causes cells to twist left-handedly during elongational growth. Through comparison with the right-handed twisting of Bacillus subtilis cells, our work supports a common mechanism linking helical insertion and chiral cell-wall ordering in rod-shaped bacteria. These physical principles of cell growth link the molecular structure of the bacterial cytoskeleton, mechanisms of wall synthesis, and the coordination of cell-wall architecture.

Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.