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RodA as the missing glycosyltransferase in Bacillus subtilis and antibiotic discovery for the peptidoglycan polymerase pathway

Nature Microbiology volume 2, Article number: 16253 (2017) | Download Citation

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 30 January 2017


The bacterial cell wall is a highly conserved essential component of most bacterial groups. It is the target for our most frequently used antibiotics and provides important small molecules that trigger powerful innate immune responses. The wall is composed of glycan strands crosslinked by short peptides. For many years, the penicillin-binding proteins were thought to be the key enzymes required for wall synthesis. RodA and possibly other proteins in the wider SEDS (shape, elongation, division and sporulation) family have now emerged as a previously unknown class of essential glycosyltranferase enzymes, which play key morphogenetic roles in bacterial cell wall synthesis. We provide evidence in support of this role and the discovery of small natural product molecules that probably target these enzymes. The SEDS proteins have exceptional potential as targets for new antibacterial therapeutic agents.

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This work was funded by grants from the BBSRC (BB/G015902/1, to R.A.D., J.E. and A.G.), ERC (670980, to J.E., Y.K. and K.E.) and the Wellcome Trust (WT098374AIA, to J.E. and L.J.W.) and core resources in Demuris Ltd. The authors thank R. Emmins, who constructed some of the mutants, D. Roberts for help with microfluidic microscopy and R. Sweet for help with the large-scale fermentation run.

Author information

Author notes

    • Kaveh Emami
    • , Aurelie Guyet
    •  & Yoshikazu Kawai

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. The Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Baddiley-Clark Building, Medical School, Newcastle University, Richardson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4AX, UK

    • Kaveh Emami
    • , Aurelie Guyet
    • , Yoshikazu Kawai
    • , Ling J. Wu
    • , Richard A. Daniel
    •  & Jeff Errington
  2. Demuris Ltd, Newcastle Biomedicine Bio-Incubators, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK

    • Jenny Devi
    • , Nick Allenby
    •  & Jeff Errington


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K.E., A.G., Y.K., J.D., L.J.W. and R.A.D. carried out the experiments. All authors contributed to the experimental design and concepts, and that all authors contributed to the text. J.E. wrote the main text with contributions from all other authors.

Competing interests

J.E. is a director and shareholder at Demuris Ltd. N.A. and J.D. are employees at Demuris Ltd.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Richard A. Daniel or Jeff Errington.

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Legends for all Supplementary Material and Supplementary Figures 2–5.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Figures and Tables

    Supplementary Figure 1 and Supplementary Tables 1 and 2.


  1. 1.

    Supplementary Video 1

    Effect of compound 654/A (30 μl) on growth and morphology of the Δ4 strain. Approximately 3 hours after addition of 654/A to Δ4 cells in the microfluidic device, cell growth slows down significantly and extensive cell lysis occurs.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Video 2

    Untreated control for growth and morphology of the Δ4 strain. In the absence of compound 654/A, Δ4 cells continue their normal growth up to full confluency.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Video 3

    Effect of compound 654/A (30 μl) on growth and morphology of the wild type. Wild-type cells show normal growth at relatively low concentrations of 654/A.

  4. 4.

    Supplementary Video 4

    Effect of compound 654/A (70 μl) on growth and morphology of the wild type. At relatively high concentrations of 654/A, extensive lysis of wild-type cells occurs, similar to that of the Δ4 cells (see Supplementary Video 1).

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