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Infect Immun. Oct 1978; 22(1): 200–208.
PMCID: PMC422137

Penetration of Cultured Mouse Fibroblasts (L Cells) by Rickettsia prowazeki


The association of Rickettsia prowazeki with L cells was examined by using a novel radioactive assay in which [α-32P]ATP-labeled rickettsiae were incubated with L-cell monolayers. Rickettsial association with the monolayer involved adherence and internalization steps that could be experimentally distinguished. Since R. prowazeki but not L cells possess an ATP-ADP obligate exchange transport system, addition of excess unlabeled ATP resulted in exchange of the labeled ATP from external, adherent rickettsiae but not from internalized rickettsiae. Rickettsial association was temperature dependent and was a linear function of both time and concentration. More than 90% of the biologically active rickettsiae associated with L cells was internalized. Rickettsial internalization required active participation of both rickettsiae and L cells; inactivation of either greatly reduced internalization. Rickettsial adherence to poisoned L cells was a saturable function of time and concentration. Adherence showed less temperature dependence than did internalization, but like rickettsial internalization, the extent of adherence was extremely low at 0°C. The rate and extent of adherence by inactivated and native rickettsiae to inactivated L cells were similar. Although inactive rickettsiae adhered to active and inactive L cells to a similar extent, inactive rickettsiae were internalized poorly by active L cells. These data form the basis for the hypothesis that R. prowazeki are internalized by the host cell through a process of “induced phagocytosis” and that inactivated rickettsiae adhere to the host cell differently from native rickettsiae, failing to trigger the endocytosis mechanism.

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Selected References

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