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Accumulating evidence suggests that molecular motors contribute to the apparent diffusion of molecules in cells. However, current literature lacks evidence for an active process that drives diffusive-like motion in the bacterial membrane. One possible mechanism is cell wall synthesis, which involves the movement of protein complexes in the cell membrane circumferentially around the cell envelope and may generate currents in the lipid bilayer that advectively transport other transmembrane proteins. We test this hypothesis in Escherichia coli using drug treatments that slow cell wall synthesis and measure their effect on the diffusion of the transmembrane protein mannitol permease using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. We found no clear decrease in diffusion in response to vancomycin and no decrease in response to mecillinam treatment. These results suggest that cell wall synthesis is not an active contributor to mobility in the cytoplasmic membrane.

Citation

George S Liu, Benjamin P Bratton, Zemer Gitai, Joshua W Shaevitz. The effect of antibiotics on protein diffusion in the Escherichia coli cytoplasmic membrane. PloS one. 2017;12(10):e0185810

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PMID: 28977034

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