Although teichoic acids are major constituents of bacterial cell walls, little is known about the relationships between their spatial localization and their functional roles. Here, we used single-molecule atomic force microscopy (AFM) combined with fluorescence microscopy to image the distribution of wall teichoic acids (WTAs) in. Lactobacillus plantarum, in relation with their physiological roles. Phenotype analysis of the wild-type strain and of mutant strains deficient for the synthesis of WTAs (Delta tagO) or cell wall polysaccharides (Delta cps1-4) revealed that WTAs are required for proper cell elongation and cell division. Nanoscale imaging by AFM showed that strains expressing WTAs have a highly polarized surface morphology, the poles being much smoother than the side walls. AFM and fluorescence imaging with specific lectin probes demonstrated that the polarized surface structure correlates with a heterogeneous distribution of WTAs, the latter being absent from the surface of the poles. These observations indicate that the polarized distribution of WTAs in L. plantarum plays a key role in controlling cell morphogenesis (surface roughness, cell shape, elongation, and division).
- gram-positive bacteria
- lipoteichoic acid