1. Cell Biology
  2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
Download icon

General principles for the formation and proliferation of a wall-free (L-form) state in bacteria

  1. Romain Mercier
  2. Yoshikazu Kawai
  3. Jeff Errington  Is a corresponding author
  1. Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Research Article
  • Cited 53
  • Views 5,466
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2014;3:e04629 doi: 10.7554/eLife.04629


The peptidoglycan cell wall is a defining structural feature of the bacterial-kingdom. Curiously, some bacteria have the ability to switch to a wall-free or 'L-form' state. Although known for decades, the general properties of L-forms are poorly understood, largely due to the lack of their systematic analysis in the molecular biology era. Here we show that inhibition of the peptidoglycan precursor synthesis promotes the generation of L-forms from both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. We show that L-forms generated have in common a mechanism of proliferation involving membrane blebbing and tubulation, which is dependant on an altered rate of membrane synthesis. Crucially, this mode of proliferation is independent of the essential FtsZ-based division machinery. Our results suggest that the L-form mode of proliferation is conserved across the bacterial-kingdom, reinforcing the idea that it could have been used in primitive cells, and opening up its use in the generation of synthetic cells.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Romain Mercier

    Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Yoshikazu Kawai

    Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Jeff Errington

    Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Roberto Kolter, Harvard Medical School, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: September 5, 2014
  2. Accepted: October 28, 2014
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 30, 2014 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: November 26, 2014 (version 2)


© 2014, Mercier et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


  • 5,466
    Page views
  • 747
  • 53

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Scopus, Crossref, PubMed Central.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

  1. Further reading

Further reading

  1. Some bacteria can survive and thrive despite not having a cell wall.

    1. Biochemistry and Chemical Biology
    2. Cell Biology
    Mark Shaaya et al.
    Tools and Resources Updated

    Engineered allosteric regulation of protein activity provides significant advantages for the development of robust and broadly applicable tools. However, the application of allosteric switches in optogenetics has been scarce and suffers from critical limitations. Here, we report an optogenetic approach that utilizes an engineered Light-Regulated (LightR) allosteric switch module to achieve tight spatiotemporal control of enzymatic activity. Using the tyrosine kinase Src as a model, we demonstrate efficient regulation of the kinase and identify temporally distinct signaling responses ranging from seconds to minutes. LightR-Src off-kinetics can be tuned by modulating the LightR photoconversion cycle. A fast cycling variant enables the stimulation of transient pulses and local regulation of activity in a selected region of a cell. The design of the LightR module ensures broad applicability of the tool, as we demonstrate by achieving light-mediated regulation of Abl and bRaf kinases as well as Cre recombinase.