The bacteria cell envelope is a complex multilayered structure that serves to protect these organisms from their unpredictable and often hostile environment. The cell envelopes of most bacteria fall into one of two major groups. Gram-negative bacteria are surrounded by a thin peptidoglycan cell wall, which itself is surrounded by an outer membrane containing lipopolysaccharide. Gram-positive bacteria lack an outer membrane but are surrounded by layers of peptidoglycan many times thicker than is found in the gram-negatives. Threading through these layers of peptidoglycan are long anionic polymers, called teichoic acids. The composition and organization of these envelope layers and recent insights into the mechanisms of cell envelope assembly are discussed.
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