Stress-induced formation of cell wall-deficient cells in filamentous actinomycetes

K. Ramijan, E. Ultee, J. Willemse, A.J. Wondergem, D. Heinrich, A. Briegel, G.P. van Wezel and D. Claessen

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Received: 14th May 18

The cell wall is a shape-defining structure that envelopes almost all bacteria. One of its main functions is to serve as a protection barrier to environmental stresses. Bacteria can be forced in a cell wall-deficient stateunder highly specialized conditions, which are invariably aimed at interrupting cell wall synthesis. Therefore, the relevance of such cells has remained obscure. Here we show that many filamentous actinomycetes have a natural ability to generate a new, cell wall-deficient cell type in response to hyperosmotic stress, which we call S-cells. This wall-deficient state is transient, as S-cells are able to switch to the canonical mycelial mode-of-growth. Remarkably, prolonged exposure of S-cells to hyperosmotic stress yielded variants that are able to proliferate indefinitely without their cell wall.  This is the first report that demonstrates the formation of wall-deficient cells as a natural adaptation strategy and their potential transition into stable wall-less forms solely caused by prolonged exposure to osmotic stress. Given that actinomycetes are potent antibiotic producers, our work also provides important insights into how biosynthetic gene clusters and resistance determinants may disseminate into the environment.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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