IV. Molecular biology of S-layers1


  • 1

    This review is part of a series of reviews dealing with different aspects of bacterial S-layers; all these reviews appeared in Volume 20/1–2 (June 1997) of FEMS Microbiology Reviews, thematic issue devoted to bacterial S-layers.


In this chapter we report on the molecular biology of crystalline surface layers of different bacterial groups. The limited information indicates that there are many variations on a common theme. Sequence variety, antigenic diversity, gene expression, rearrangements, influence of environmental factors and applied aspects are addressed. There is considerable variety in the S-layer composition, which was elucidated by sequence analysis of the corresponding genes. In Corynebacterium glutamicum one major cell wall protein is responsible for the formation of a highly ordered, hexagonal array. In contrast, two abundant surface proteins form the S-layer of Bacillus anthracis. Each protein possesses three S-layer homology motifs and one protein could be a virulence factor. The antigenic diversity and ABC transporters are important features, which have been studied in methanogenic archaea. The expression of the S-layer components is controlled by three genes in the case of Thermus thermophilus. One has repressor activity on the S-layer gene promoter, the second codes for the S-layer protein. The rearrangement by reciprocal recombination was investigated in Campylobacter fetus. 7–8 S-layer proteins with a high degree of homology at the 5′ and 3′ ends were found. Environmental changes influence the surface properties of Bacillus stearothermophilus. Depending on oxygen supply, this species produces different S-layer proteins. Finally, the molecular bases for some applications are discussed. Recombinant S-layer fusion proteins have been designed for biotechnology.