Distribution, formation and regulation of gas vesicles.
A range of bacteria and archaea produce intracellular gas-filled proteinaceous structures that function as flotation devices in order to maintain a suitable depth in the aqueous environment. The wall of these gas vesicles is freely permeable to gas molecules and is composed of a small hydrophobic protein, GvpA, which forms a single-layer wall. In addition, several minor structural, accessory or regulatory proteins are required for gas vesicle formation. In different organisms, 8-14 genes encoding gas vesicle proteins have been identified, and their expression has been shown to be regulated by environmental factors. In this Review, I describe the basic properties of gas vesicles, the genes that encode them and how their production is regulated. I also discuss the function of these vesicles and the initial attempts to exploit them for biotechnological purposes.