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J Bacteriol. 1992 Nov;174(22):7159-67.

Ultrastructural examination of the lipopolysaccharides of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains and their isogenic rough mutants by freeze-substitution.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, College of Biological Science, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


The majority of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains synthesize two antigenically distinct types of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), namely, a serotype-specific B-band LPS and a common antigen A-band LPS. A-band LPS consists of uncharged poly-D-rhamnan, which does not bind uranyl ions and is difficult to stain for electron microscopy; the highly charged B-band LPS is more easily visualized. We selected two wild-type strains, PAO1 (serotype O5) and IATS O6 (serotype O6), generated isogenic mutants from them, and examined the distribution of LPS on the surface of these organisms by freeze-substitution and electron microscopy. On PAO1 cells, which express both A-band and B-band LPSs, a 31- to 36-nm-wide fringe extending perpendicularly from the outer membrane was observed. A fine fibrous material was also observed on the surface of serotype O6 (A+ B+) cells, although this material did not form a uniform layer. When the LPS-deficient mutants, strains AK1401 (A+ B-), AK 1012 (A- B-), rd7513 (A- B-), and R5 (an IATS O6-derived rough mutant; A- B-), were examined, no extraneous material was apparent above the bilayer. However, an asymmetrical staining pattern was observed on the outer leaflet of the outer membrane of each of these mutants, presumably conforming to the anionic charge distribution of the core region of the rough LPS. In all cases, expression of the LPS types was confirmed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and silver staining. When optical densitometry on electron microscopy negatives was used to analyze the outer membrane staining profiles, subtle differences in the degrees of core deficiency among rough mutants were detectable. This is the first time an electron microscopy technique has preserved the infrastructure produced in the outer membrane by its constituent macromolecules. We conclude that freeze-substitution electron microscopy is effective in the visualization of LPS morphotypes.

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