This is the major component of the cell wall involved in maintenance of cell rigidity, shape and osmotic stability and may be referred to as murein or muco-peptide. It consists of a polymer of pi —» 4-linked N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine residues which are cross-linked by peptide bridges. The antibiotic penicillin interferes with peptidoglycan synthesis by inhibiting peptide bridge forma tion. Peptidoglycan is present in all bacteria except mycoplasmas and some halophilic archaebacteria. In gram-negative bacteria the peptidoglycan layer may be only one or two molecules thick but in gram-positive bacteria it is much thicker. Removal of the peptidoglycan by treatment of bacteria with lysozyme generates osmotically fragile structures termed protoplasts in gram-negative bacteria and spheroplasts in gram-positive organisms; L-forms are bacterial variants that have lost the ability to synthesize peptidoglycan. Peptidoglycans of many bacteria are antigenic, and a degradation product of mycobacterial peptidoglycan - muramyl dipeptide (MDP) - has adjuvant properties.

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