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Essay On Bacterial Cell Wall Composition

1376 words - 6 pages

Bacterial Cell Wall CompositionAlmost all bacteria have cell walls surrounding the cell membranes. This cell wall helps to do important functions, like confer cell shape, and protect the cell from lysis when in low solute environments. There are three classifications used in describing cell walls: Gram Positive (Gram+), Gram Negative (Gram-) and Acid-Fast. These membranes share a common part in their structure, however--an interlocked layer of peptidoglycan. Peptidoglycan is a molecular complex made from two sugar monomers: N-acetylmuramic acid (NAM) and N-acetylglucosamine (NAG).NAM and NAG are strung together to form a chain. Several of these chains are built side-by-side and then are bonded, or cross-linked, forming a layer. Each of these layers is, in turn, cross-linked to each other in the same fashion that the chains were linked into layers. In other words, the NAM and NAG are bound together into threads. These threads are then tied together to form a mat. The mats are laid on top of another and tied together to form the peptidoglycan of the cell wall.The number of layers in the peptidoglycan differs strongly between Gram+ and Gram- (and Acid-Fast) cell walls.Think Positive: The Gram-Positive Cell WallGram+ cell walls have a distinctly thick layer of peptidoglycan (which contrasts with the thin layer in Gram- and Acid-Fast--more on that later). Teichoic and Lipoteichoic acids run throughout the layers of the peptidoglycan. Teichoic acid is a polymer made from Ribitol-phosphate and/or glycerol-phosphate. Lipoteichoic acid is a teichoic acid attached to a lipid, which is seated in the cell membrane. Teichoic acid is often used by the immune system as an antigen. Some Gram+ cell walls also have teichuronic acid, which is made from two or more repeating subunits, one of which is a derivative of uronic acid. Various proteins are also embedded throughout the peptidoglycan layer.Developing The Negatives: The Gram-Negative Cell WallGram- cell walls are composed of two sections: the inner peptidoglycan layer and an outer membrane. As mentioned above, the layer of peptidoglycan is thinner in Gram- cell walls than in Gram+ cell walls. The the inner layer of the Gram- membrane is composed of phospholipids like the cell membrane, but the outer layer is composed of high-density lipopolysaccharides. These lipopolysaccharides are important for a number of reasons: their lipid portion, lipid A, is a highly reactive molecule, and is responsible for endotoxic shock if the human body is exposed to it; also, every lipopolysaccharide has a sidechain, the O sidechain, that is important for antigen identification by the immune system.Porins embedded throughout the outer membrane act as channels for smaller molecules to pass through. Other proteins may also be embedded throughout the outer membrane. Braun's lipoprotein anchors the outer membrane to the peptidoglycan layer.Acid Reflux: The Acid-Fast Cell WallThe acid-fast cell wall is the black sheep of the group of...

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