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Peptidoglycans are structural components of bacterial cell walls. The peptidoglycan layer is thicker in Gram-positive bacteria than in Gram-negative bacteria. It forms around 90% and 10% of dry weight of gram positive and gram negative bacteria respectively.

Chemical structure

The peptidoglycan layer in the bacterial cell wall is a lattice structure formed from linear chains of two alternating amino sugars, namely N-acetyl glucosamine (GlcNAc) and N-acetyl muramic acid (MurNAc). Each MurNAc is attached to a short (5 residues) amino acid chain. Cross links between amino acids in different linear amino sugar chains result in a 2-dimensional sheet that is strong and rigid. The exact amino acid sequence and the exact overall structure vary with the bacterial species.

Biological purpose

Peptidoglycans serve a structural role, giving bacterial cell walls their shape and strength and counteracting the osmotic pressure of the cytoplasm. It is also involved in binary fission of the bacterial cell.