Summary: Mutants of that contain active autolysin and yet cannot be induced to lyse during treatment with penicillin (LytTol mutants) have been described. We have now shown that these mutants are temperature dependent (32 °C); at 37 °C these bacteria underwent penicillin-induced lysis. In addition, mutants at the lysis-permissive temperature showed the so-called ‘paradoxical response’ to penicillin. Temperature shift experiments indicated that the change from tolerant to lytic response or vice versa is a fast process. No differences were detected in autolysin specific activity or in the kinetics of inhibition of protein, peptidoglycan and teichoic acid syntheses in cells treated with penicillin at 32 and 37 °C. The results of genetic crosses indicated that the thermosensitivity of penicillin-induced autolysis in the LytTol mutants is not a property of the autolytic enzyme itself. The observations suggest that the thermosensitive process in the mutants represents either a step(s) in autolysin regulation or involves some difference in the structure of the cell walls produced at 32 °C versus 37 °C.


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