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D-Amino Acids Govern Stationary Phase Cell Wall Remodeling in Bacteria

Science  18 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5947, pp. 1552-1555
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178123

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Abstract

In all known organisms, amino acids are predominantly thought to be synthesized and used as their L-enantiomers. Here, we found that bacteria produce diverse D-amino acids as well, which accumulate at millimolar concentrations in supernatants of stationary phase cultures. In Vibrio cholerae, a dedicated racemase produced D-Met and D-Leu, whereas Bacillus subtilis generated D-Tyr and D-Phe. These unusual D-amino acids appear to modulate synthesis of peptidoglycan, a strong and elastic polymer that serves as the stress-bearing component of the bacterial cell wall. D-Amino acids influenced peptidoglycan composition, amount, and strength, both by means of their incorporation into the polymer and by regulating enzymes that synthesize and modify it. Thus, synthesis of D-amino acids may be a common strategy for bacteria to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Natural Products Research Institute, College of Pharmacy, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Sillim, Seoul 151-742, Republic of Korea.

  • Present address: Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.

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