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All Gram-negative bacteria studied to date have been shown to produce outer membrane vesicles (OMVs), which are budded, released spheres of outer membrane with periplasmic content. OMVs have been implicated in the delivery of virulence factors in pathogenesis. However, OMVs also benefit nonpathogenic species by delivering degradative enzymes to defend an ecological niche against competing bacterial species, and they can serve as an envelope stress response. Despite these important roles, very little is known about the mechanism of production of OMVs. Here we review the advantage of vesiculation, particularly in a nonpathogenic context, as well as the hurdles that have to be overcome in Gram-negative envelope architecture before a vesicle can form and bud. Lastly, we address the question of whether OMV production is a stochastic or regulated process.


Carmen Schwechheimer, Claretta J Sullivan, Meta J Kuehn. Envelope control of outer membrane vesicle production in Gram-negative bacteria. Biochemistry. 2013 May 7;52(18):3031-40

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PMID: 23521754

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