L-forms are cell wall-deficient variants of otherwise walled bacteria that maintain the ability to survive and proliferate in absence of the surrounding peptidoglycan sacculus. While transient or unstable L-forms can revert to the walled state and may still rely on residual peptidoglycan synthesis for multiplication, stable L-forms cannot revert to the walled form and are believed to propagate in the complete absence of peptidoglycan. L-forms are increasingly studied as a fundamental biological model system for cell wall synthesis. Here, we show that a stable L-form of the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes features a surprisingly intact peptidoglycan synthesis pathway including glycosyl transfer, in spite of the accumulation of multiple mutations during prolonged passage in the cell wall-deficient state. Microscopic and biochemical analysis revealed the presence of peptidoglycan precursors and functional glycosyl transferases, resulting in the formation of peptidoglycan polymers but without the synthesis of a mature cell wall sacculus. In conclusion, we found that stable, non-reverting L-forms, which do not require active PG synthesis for proliferation, may still continue to produce aberrant peptidoglycan.
Journal: PloS one