Recent research into various aspects of bacterial metabolism such as cell wall and antibiotic synthesis, degradation pathways, cellular stress, and amino acid biosynthesis has elucidated roles of aminoacyl-transfer ribonucleic acid (aa-tRNA) outside of translation. Although the two enzyme families responsible for cell wall modifications, aminoacyl-phosphatidylglycerol synthases (aaPGSs) and Fem, were discovered some time ago, they have recently become of intense interest for their roles in the antimicrobial resistance of pathogenic microorganisms. The addition of positively charged amino acids to phosphatidylglycerol (PG) by aaPGSs neutralizes the lipid bilayer making the bacteria less susceptible to positively charged antimicrobial agents. Fem transferases utilize aa-tRNA to form peptide bridges that link strands of peptidoglycan. These bridges vary among the bacterial species in which they are present and play a role in resistance to antibiotics that target the cell wall. Additionally, the formation of truncated peptides results in shorter peptide bridges and loss of branched linkages which makes bacteria more susceptible to antimicrobials. A greater understanding of the structure and substrate specificity of this diverse enzymatic family is necessary to aid current efforts in designing potential bactericidal agents. These two enzyme families are linked only by the substrate with which they modify the cell wall, aa-tRNA; their structure, cell wall modification processes and the physiological changes they impart on the bacterium differ greatly. WIREs RNA 2012, 3:247–264. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1108
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