Gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli have outer membranes to hold their innards in place, and protect them from the hustle and bustle of bacterial life?
"By studying live bacteria from the molecular to cellular scale, we can see how membrane proteins form a network that spans the entire surface of the bacteria, leaving small gaps for patches that contain no protein.".
The team then produced a wonderful image of the bacterial membrane – which they call the sharpest images ever of living bacteria – showing the density of the outer-membrane proteins across the surface.
"We conclude that the outer membrane is a mosaic of phase-separated lipopolysaccharide-rich and outer-membrane protein-rich regions, the maintenance of which is essential to the integrity of the membrane and hence to the lifestyle of a gram-negative bacterium," the team writes in the new paper.
"The textbook picture of the bacterial outer membrane shows proteins distributed over the membrane in a disordered manner, well-mixed with other building blocks of the membrane.
"This new way of looking at the outer membrane means that we can now start exploring if and how such order matters for membrane function, integrity and resistance to antibiotics."