Open Access Research

Identification of key peptidoglycan hydrolases for morphogenesis, autolysis, and peptidoglycan composition of Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1

Thomas Rolain1, Elvis Bernard123, Pascal Courtin23, Peter A Bron456, Michiel Kleerebezem457, Marie-Pierre Chapot-Chartier23 and Pascal Hols1*

Author Affiliations

1 Biochimie et Génétique Moléculaire Bactérienne, Institut des Sciences de la Vie, Université catholique de Louvain, Place Croix du Sud 5/L7.07.06, Louvain-la-Neuve, B-1348, Belgium

2 INRA, UMR1319 Micalis, Jouy-en-Josas, F-78350, France

3 AgroParisTech, UMR Micalis, Jouy-en-Josas, F-78350, France

4 TI Food & Nutrition, Nieuwe Kanaal 9A, Wageningen, PA, 6709, The Netherlands

5 NIZO food research, Kernhemseweg 2, Ede, ZB, 6718, The Netherlands

6 Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation, Julianalaan 67, Delft, BC, 2628, The Netherlands

7 Host Microbe Interactomics Group, Wageningen University, De Elst 1, Wageningen, WD, 6708, The Netherlands

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Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:137  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-137

Published: 15 October 2012



Lactobacillus plantarum is commonly used in industrial fermentation processes. Selected strains are also marketed as probiotics for their health beneficial effects. Although the functional role of peptidoglycan-degrading enzymes is increasingly documented to be important for a range of bacterial processes and host-microbe interactions, little is known about their functional roles in lactobacilli. This knowledge holds important potential for developing more robust strains resistant to autolysis under stress conditions as well as peptidoglycan engineering for a better understanding of the contribution of released muramyl-peptides as probiotic immunomodulators.


Here, we explored the functional role of the predicted peptidoglycan hydrolase (PGH) complement encoded in the genome of L. plantarum by systematic gene deletion. From twelve predicted PGH-encoding genes, nine could be individually inactivated and their corresponding mutant strains were characterized regarding their cell morphology, growth, and autolysis under various conditions. From this analysis, we identified two PGHs, the predicted N-acetylglucosaminidase Acm2 and NplC/P60 D,L-endopeptidase LytA, as key determinants in the morphology of L. plantarum. Acm2 was demonstrated to be required for the ultimate step of cell separation of daughter cells, whereas LytA appeared to be required for cell shape maintenance and cell-wall integrity. We also showed by autolysis experiments that both PGHs are involved in the global autolytic process with a dominant role for Acm2 in all tested conditions, identifying Acm2 as the major autolysin of L. plantarum WCFS1. In addition, Acm2 and the putative N-acetylmuramidase Lys2 were shown to play redundant roles in both cell separation and autolysis under stress conditions. Finally, the analysis of the peptidoglycan composition of Acm2- and LytA-deficient derivatives revealed their potential hydrolytic activities by the disappearance of specific cleavage products.


In this study, we showed that two PGHs of L. plantarum have a predominant physiological role in a range of growth conditions. We demonstrate that the N-acetylglucosaminidase Acm2 is the major autolysin whereas the D,L-endopeptidase LytA is a key morphogenic determinant. In addition, both PGHs have a direct impact on PG structure by generating a higher diversity of cleavage products that could be of importance for interaction with the innate immune system.

Lactobacillus plantarum; Peptidoglycan; Autolysin; Peptidoglycan hydrolase; Glucosaminidase; Muropeptidase