I've searched for some time now, but I can't find a definitive answer. The closest I have gotten is "knowledge about peptidoglycan structures dates back to the 1970s–80s" from this paper.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a not really a good question for this site — and if you ask better questions please put them in the question rather than the assume we remember the title. The reasons are 1. The purpose of this site is not to construct a chronology of the discovery of every biological compound, 2. Nobody on this site knows the answer to that sort of question without doing a search, 3. You can easily find it yourself — search “dictionary peptidoglycan” — and choose a reputable primary dictionary from the results. I chose Merriam Webster and it gave me 1966. For a citation you might need to look further. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 24, 2020 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ @David not sure what your qualm is with the question. If people have this question, they can look at it, otherwise they can just as easily not open this thread. This site even provides a history tag, so it seems that this falls within the meta. Additionally, Merriam Webster does give 1966 but it’s very vague and unconvincing (and I had looked at this before posting). I asked simply because the answer seemed complicated, and would probably be best answered by someone with knowledge of the topic. $\endgroup$
    – Nold
    Dec 25, 2020 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ First, tags do not define what's on topic and whether a question is satisfactorily presented. That is explained in the Tour and the Help. (Not sure what you mean by "falls within the meta".) There are circumstances where a question about the history of biology is on topic, but, as is clear from the Help on Asking Questions you need to make it generally relevant and provide context. As you had not done this I explained how to find the answer. The aim of the site is to build a library of questions about biology that are of general use. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 27, 2020 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/… $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2021 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


The discovery of peptidoglycan, as present in the bacterium cell wall took many years.

“The terms mucopeptide, glycopeptide, or murein, used by some authors, are all synonymous with peptidoglycan.” [Ghuysen, J.M. (1968) Bacteriol. Rev. 32:425-64] Among those, Weidel and Pelzer previously coined the term murein [Weidel, W. and Pelzer, H. (1964) Adv. Enzymol. Rel. Areas Mol. Biol. 26:193].

Regarding the organized, higher structure of the peptidoglycan as found in the Gram-negative cell envelope, Salton [Salton, M.R.J. (1994) New Compr. Biochem. 27:1-22] mentioned the following:

“The exact nature of comparable ‘wall’ fractions obtained from Gram-negative bacteria remained a matter of uncertainty until the advent of electron microscopy of ultra-thin sections of bacterial cells as demonstrated by Ryter and Kellenberger [Ryter, A. and Kellenberger, E. (1958) J. Biophys. Biochem. Cytol. 4:671-678.]. The response of cells to the Gram stain procedure and the early chemical analysis of ‘cell wall’ preparations clearly pointed to some basic differences in the properties of the envelopes of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and the greater chemical complexity of the isolated fractions from the latter organisms [Salton, M.R.J. (1953) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 10:512-523.]. The structural complexity of the Gram-negative cell envelope was clearly resolved in the thin sections of Ryter and Kellenberger [Ryter, A. and Kellenberger, E. (1958) J. Biophys. Biochem. Cytol. 4:671-678.] and established the presence of an outer membrane as a characteristic feature of the cell envelope. The mysteries of the structure of the Gram-negative cell envelope were finally solved with the demonstration of the thin layer (peptidoglycan) between the outer and inner (cytoplasmic) membranes by use of lanthanum-stained thin sections by Murray et al. [Murray, R.G.E. et al. (1965) Can. J. Microbiol. 11:547-560.], and the isolation and demonstration of the thin murein sacculus of E. coli by Weidel et al. [Weidel, W. et al. (1960) J. Gen. Microbiol. 22:158-166.]. Thus, the complex cell envelopes of Gram-negative bacteria were resolved as consisting of an outer membrane anchored to the underlying rigid, thin, peptidoglycan layer or sacculus.”


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