Peptidoglycan in obligate intracellular bacteria.
Otten C., Brilli M., Vollmer W., Viollier PH., Salje J.
Peptidoglycan is the predominant stress-bearing structure in the cell envelope of most bacteria, and also a potent stimulator of the eukaryotic immune system. Obligate intracellular bacteria replicate exclusively within the interior of living cells, an osmotically protected niche. Under these conditions peptidoglycan is not necessarily needed to maintain the integrity of the bacterial cell. Moreover, the presence of peptidoglycan puts bacteria at risk of detection and destruction by host peptidoglycan recognition factors and downstream effectors. This has resulted in a selective pressure and opportunity to reduce the levels of peptidoglycan. In this review we have analysed the occurrence of genes involved in peptidoglycan metabolism across the major obligate intracellular bacterial species. From this comparative analysis, we have identified a group of predicted 'peptidoglycan-intermediate' organisms that includes the Chlamydiae, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Wolbachia and Anaplasma marginale. This grouping is likely to reflect biological differences in their infection cycle compared with peptidoglycan-negative obligate intracellular bacteria such as Ehrlichia and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, as well as obligate intracellular bacteria with classical peptidoglycan such as Coxiella, Buchnera and members of the Rickettsia genus. The signature gene set of the peptidoglycan-intermediate group reveals insights into minimal enzymatic requirements for building a peptidoglycan-like sacculus and/or division septum.