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Infect Immun. 1991 Oct;59(10):3463-71.

Intercellular spread of Shigella flexneri through a monolayer mediated by membranous protrusions and associated with reorganization of the cytoskeletal protein vinculin.

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Department of Microbiology, GBF-National Research Center for Biotechnology, Braunschweig, Germany.


The spread of Shigella flexneri in a monolayer of infected Henle and HeLa cells was studied by using immunofluorescence and electron microscopy. Infected cells produced numerous bacterium-containing membranous protrusions up to 18 microns in length that penetrated adjacent cells and were subsequently phagocytosed. Fluorescence staining of actin and vinculin in infected cells with phalloidin and monoclonal antibody to vinculin, respectively, demonstrated that the protrusions containing the bacteria consisted of these cytoskeletal proteins. Actin accumulated predominantly at the poles of bacteria distal to the tip of protrusions and appeared as trails extending back towards the host cell cytoplasm. Vinculin, however, was distributed uniformly around the bacteria and throughout the protrusion. A profound rearrangement of vinculin occurred in Henle and HeLa cells following infection with shigellae: whereas in uninfected cells it was distributed mainly around the cell periphery, in infected cells it concentrated mainly around clusters of bacteria in the cytoplasm. This suggests a possible involvement of the vinculin cytoskeletal protein in the intercellular spread of shigellae during an infection.

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