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J Exp Med. 1997 Aug 18;186(4):569-80.

Murine salmonellosis studied by confocal microscopy: Salmonella typhimurium resides intracellularly inside macrophages and exerts a cytotoxic effect on phagocytes in vivo.

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Biotechnology Laboratory, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T 1Z3.


Salmonella typhimurium is considered a facultative intracellular pathogen, but its intracellular location in vivo has not been demonstrated conclusively. Here we describe the development of a new method to study the course of the histopathological processes associated with murine salmonellosis using confocal laser scanning microscopy of immunostained sections of mouse liver. Confocal microscopy of 30-micron-thick sections was used to detect bacteria after injection of approximately 100 CFU of S. typhimurium SL1344 intravenously into BALB/c mice, allowing salmonellosis to be studied in the murine model using more realistic small infectious doses. The appearance of bacteria in the mouse liver coincided in time and location with the infiltration of neutrophils in inflammatory foci. At later stages of disease the bacteria colocalized with macrophages and resided intracellularly inside these macrophages. Bacteria were cytotoxic for phagocytic cells, and apoptotic nuclei were detected immunofluorescently, whether phagocytes harbored intracellular bacteria or not. These data argue that Salmonella resides intracellularly inside macrophages in the liver and triggers cell death of phagocytes, processes which are involved in disease. This method is also applicable to other virulence models to examine infections at a cellular and subcellular level in vivo.

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