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Infect Immun. 1989 Aug;57(8):2378-89.

Entry of genital Chlamydia trachomatis into polarized human epithelial cells.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill 27599.


To study the initial invasion process(es) of genital chlamydiae, a model system consisting of hormonally maintained primary cultures of human endometrial gland epithelial cells (HEGEC), grown in a polarized orientation on collagen-coated filters, was utilized. After Chlamydia trachomatis inoculation of the apical surface of polarized HEGEC, chlamydiae were readily visualized, by transmission electron microscopy, in coated pits and coated vesicles. This was true for HEGEC maintained in physiologic concentrations of estrogen (proliferative phase) and of estrogen plus progesterone (secretory phase), despite the finding that association of chlamydiae with secretory-phase HEGEC is significantly reduced (P = 0.025; A.S. Maslow, C.H. Davis, J. Choong, and P.B. Wyrick, Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol. 159:1006-1014, 1988). In contrast, chlamydiae were rarely observed in the clathrin-associated structures if the HEGEC were cultured on plastic surfaces. The same pattern of coated pit versus noncoated pit entry was reproducible in HeLa cells. The quantity of coated pits associated with isolated membrane sheets derived from HeLa cells, grown on poly-L-lysine-coated cover slips in medium containing the female hormones, was not significantly different as monitored by radiolabeling studies and by laser scanning microscopy. These data suggest that culture conditions which mimic in vivo cellular organization may enhance entry into coated pits for some obligate intracellular pathogens.

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