Chemical structure of the peptidoglycan, its modifiability and relation to the biological activity

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The peptidoglycan is a heteropolymer composed of polysaccharide chains which are cross linked through short peptides. The polysaccharide moiety (glycan) is made up of β 1,4 glycosidically linked N acetylglucosamine and N acylmuramic acid residues. The carboxyl group of muramic acid is usually substituted by a peptide which consists of alternating L and D amino acids. These peptide subunits are cross linked between the diamino acid in position 3 and the C terminal D alanine in position 4 of an adjacent peptide subunit either in a direct way or via an interpeptide bridge (Group A). In some coryneform bacteria the cross linkage extends from the α carboxyl group of D glutamic acid in position 2 to D alanine of a neighbouring peptide subunit (Group B). In the latter a diamino acid is always found in the interpeptide bridge. A chemical modification of the peptidoglycan may occur in some bacteria due to growth in an unbalanced medium. The influence of glycine rich and glycine deficient growth medium on the chemical structure of the peptidoglycan of S. aureus is discussed. Inhibiting concentrations of penicillin, glycine or D amino acids can also modify the peptidoglycan. Further modification can occur through different extraction procedures which are used to obtain a clean peptidoglycan free of non peptidoglycan cell wall material. Little is known about the molecular basis of the biological activity. At the very least, the chemical composition is important for the antigenic determinants. The lysozyme susceptibility and the size of the preparation may also be crucial points for the biological activity of the peptidoglycan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-117
Number of pages14
JournalZeitschrift fur Immunitatsforschung
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 1975
Externally publishedYes


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