Summary: The peptidoglycan of a number of strains of and turned over during exponential growth as monitored by the loss of radioactivity (supplied as [C]glucosamine) from SDS-insoluble material. However, no turnover of the peptide side chains of peptidoglycan was observed (monitored by diamino[H]pimelic acid) even though turnover of glycan material was occurring. Turnover rates of 9 to 15% per generation were recorded for all of the strains studied except for the autolytic variant RD which showed a higher rate of turnover (20 to 26% per generation). In contrast to previous interpretations, these rates of turnover were not affected by benzylpenicillin, unless sufficient antibiotic was present to affect culture turbidity, when lysis occurred. Examination of the fragments (monomer, dimer and their -acetylated counterparts, and oligomers) produced by B muramidase treatment of prelabelled peptidoglycan revealed that no fraction of the peptidoglycan was immune from turnover. However, peptidoglycan pulse-labelled for only 10 min did not show immediate turnover. The lapse of time before turnover commenced was strain dependent, with a maximum value of 1·5 generations. This work confirms that the peptidoglycan of undergoes a period of maturation and suggests that only mature peptidoglycan turns over.


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