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Microb Pathog. 1996 Apr;20(4):191-202.

A comparison of the haemagglutinating and enzymic activities of Bacteroides fragilis whole cells and outer membrane vesicles.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, School of Clinical Medicine, Queen's University of Belfast, U.K.


The haemagglutinating and enzymic activities of the obligately anaerobic pathogenic bacterium Bacteroides fragilis were examined. Outer membrane vesicles are released from the surface of B. fragilis. They can be detected by electron microscopy in ultrathin sections and bacterial suspensions after negative staining. Electron microscopy and immunogold labelling with a MAb specific for surface polysaccharide of B. fragilis confirmed that the vesicles carried outer membrane associated epitopes. The haemagglutinating activity of whole cells from populations of B. fragilis strains NCTC9343, BE3 and LS66 enriched by Percoll density gradient centrifugation for a large capsule (LC), electron dense layer (EDL); non-capsulate by light microscopy) and outer membrane vesicles (OMV) which had been purified by centrifugation from EDL-enriched populations were compared using human and horse erythrocytes. The enzymic activity of OMV, LC- and EDL-enriched populations, as detected by the API ZYM kit, was compared for strains NCTC 9343 and BE3. Purified OMV from the strains examined exhibited both haemagglutinating and enzymatic activity. Haemagglutination by the EDL-enriched population was sensitive to treatment with sodium periodate. The LC-enriched population haemagglutinated only after ultrasonic removal of the capsule. This indicates that the LC masks a haemagglutinin. The results suggest a potential role for OMV in the virulence of B. fragilis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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