The bacterial cell wall (top left) consists of sugar strands (hexagons) that are crosslinked via peptide bonds between their peptide sidechains (small circles). Cell expansion requires the incorporation of new cell wall material. Autolysin enzymes cleave the peptide crosslinks to allow for expansion. Insufficient autolysin activity prevents expansion and thus growth (bottom left). Uncontrolled autolysin activity results in cell wall destruction and lysis (indicated by yellow stars, top right). When the autolysin activity is ‘just right’, the cell wall expands (red) and its integrity is maintained (bottom right).