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J Infect Dis. 1987 Nov;156(5):741-50.

Virulence studies, in mice, of transposon-induced mutants of Staphylococcus aureus differing in capsule size.

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Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


We used three related strains of Staphylococcus aureus to determine whether capsule size influenced bacterial virulence. Strain SA1 mucoid elaborated a large capsule demonstrable by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Nonmucoid isolates were derived from strain SA1 mucoid by Tn551 insertional mutagenesis. By TEM, strain JL24 produced a "microcapsule," whereas strain JL25 was unencapsulated. Strain SA1 mucoid had a 50% lethal dose for mice greater than 3,000-fold lower than that of strains JL24 and JL25. Quantitative cultures of blood and kidney from animals challenged intravenously revealed that strain SA1 mucoid was cleared less readily from the bloodstream and kidneys than the nonmucoid mutants. In an in vitro assay, only strain SA1 mucoid demonstrated antibody-dependent, complement-mediated opsonophagocytosis by human leukocytes. Strains JL24 and JL25 were opsonized for phagocytosis by complement alone. Thus a highly encapsulated strain of S. aureus was more virulent in mice than two related nonmucoid strains. The microencapsulated mutant was not more virulent than the unencapsulated mutant.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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