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Although the peptidoglycan cell wall is an essential structural and morphological feature of most bacterial cells, the extracytoplasmic enzymes involved in its synthesis are frequently dispensable under standard culture conditions. By modulating a single growth parameter—extracellular pH—we discovered a subset of these so-called 'redundant' enzymes in Escherichia coli are required for maximal fitness across pH environments. Among these pH specialists are the class A penicillin binding proteinsdoi:10.7554/elife.40754 fatcat:q7ugoaedfrhh5hcibjahn5ryum