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bacteria
A large group of unicellular and simple multicellular organisms, lacking chlorophyll, which multiply through cell
fission.

Until recently, all bacteria were grouped into a single kingdom of prokaryotes, Monera, which included both
eubacteria and archaebacteria. Eubacteria are distinguished by having very strong cell
walls containing peptidoglycan. Archaebacteria lack peptidoglycan in their cell walls and their genes are more
similar to those found in eukaryotes than are those of eubacteria. The differences are so great that most
biologists now agree that archaebacteria and eubacteria should be assigned to separate kingdoms. In the new
taxonomic scheme, eubacteria, includingcyanobacteria, make up the Kingdom Monera, while archaebacteria,
redesignated archaea, comprise the Kingdom Archaea (see life, classification).

Shapes of bacteria Echerichia coli bacteria


The shape of bacterial cells is of fundamental importance in the classification and identification of
bacteria. The majority of bacterial cells come in three basic shapes: round, rod shaped, or spiral.
However, they display a remarkable variety of forms when viewed microscopically:

Round (spherical) bacteria are referred to as cocci (singular: coccus).

Elongated or rod-shaped cells are known as bacilli (singular: bacillus).

Ovoid cells are something in between cocci and bacilli. These are known as coccobacilli (singular
coccobacillus).

Spiral shaped cells can be one of two types: either rigid called spirilla (singular spirillum) or flexible
called spirochaetes (singular spirochaete). Spiral-shaped bacteria are distinguished by their length,
the number and size of the spirals, and direction of the coil. Short segments or incomplete spirals are
common, as the comma-shaped Vibrios. The spirochetes of syphilis are typical spiral bacteria.
Diseases caused by spirochaetes include the following: syphilis, yaws, leptosporosis, and Lyme Types of bacteria: (1) cocci, (2) diplococci, (3) streptococci,
disease. (5) bacilli. Some bacteria possess hairlike flagella, for
example (6) flagellate rods or (7) flagellate spirilla. At (4) a
bacillus is shown undergoing reproduction by binary
Square bacteria are flat and box-like, but can vary in their angular shape. fission.

There are also fungal bacteria, known as actinomycetes, which grow like fine threads,
called hyphae (singular hypha). A mass or group of these is known as 'mycelium'. One example is Actinomyces scabies, which resembles fungal mycelia.
Specialized reproductive elements produce conidia (functioning similar to spores) that are eventually released into the air.
Bacterial cell walls

The vast majority of bacteria have a cell wall containing a special polymer called peptidoglycan. The cell wall lies outside the cell membrane, and the rigid
peptidoglycan is important in defining the shape of the cell, and giving the cell mechanical strength.

The bacterial cell wall is a unique biopolymer in that it contains both D- and L-amino acids. Its basic structure is a carbohydrate backbone of alternating units of N-
acetyl glucosamine and N-acetyl muramic acid. The NAM residues are cross-linked with oligopeptides. The terminal peptide is D-alanine although other amino
acids are present as D-isomers. This is the only biological molecule that contains D-amino acids and it is the target of numerous antibacterial antibiotics.

The cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria (see Gram's stain) lies beyond the cell membrane and is largely made up of pepidoglycan. There may be up to 40 layers of
this polymer, conferring enormous mechanical strength on the cell wall. Other polymers including teichoic and teichuronic acids also lie in the cell walls of Gram-
positive bacteria. These act as surface antigens.

Properties associated with bacterial cell walls

Bacteria may be conveniently divided into two further groups, depending upon their ability to retain a crystal violet-iodine dye complex when cells are treated
with acetone or alcohol. This reaction is referred to as the Gram reaction: named after Christian Gram, who developed the staining protocol in 1884. It may seem
an arbitrary basis on which to build one's classification system. This reaction, however, reveals fundamental differences in the structure of bacteria. Electron
microscopy shows that Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria have fundamentally different structures, related to the composition of the cell wall, amongst
other things.

Cells with many layers of peptidoglycan can retain a crystal violet-iodine complex when treated with acetone. These are called Gram-positive bacteria and appear
blue-black or purple when stained using Gram's method. Gram-negative bacteria have only one or two layers of peptidoglycan and cannot retain the crystal violet-
iodine complex. These need counterstaining with another dye to be seen using Gram's method. A red dye such as dilute carbol fuchsin is often used.

The cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria lies beyond the cell membrane and is largely made up of pepidoglycan. There may be up to 40 layers of this polymer,
conferring enormous mechanical strength on the cell wall. Other polymers including teichoic and teichuronic acids also lie in the cell walls of Gram-positive
bacteria. These act as surface antigens.
In contrast to Gram-positive cells, the cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria is complex. Above the cell membrane is a periplasm. This area is full of proteins
including enzymes. One or two layers of peptidoglycan lie beyond the periplasm. Gram-negative bacteria are thus mechanically much weaker than Gram-positive
cells. Beyond the peptidoglycan of the Gram-negative cell wall lies an outer membrane. This has protein channels – porins – through which some molecules may
pass easily. The outer side of the Gram-negative outer membrane contains lipopolysaccharide. This provides the antigenic structure of the surface of Gram-
negative bacteria and also acts as endotoxin. It is this that is responsible for eliciting the symptoms of Gram-negative shock if it gains access to the bloodstream.
Porins and Outer Membrane Proteins (OMPs) act as transporters through the outer membrane.