A bacterial agglutinin was extracted from ground corn (WI hybrid 64A × W117) seed with phosphate-buffered saline (pH 6.0) and precipitated with (NH4)2SO4 at 70% saturation. The activities of this agglutinin against 22 strains of Erwinia stewartii (agent of bacterial wilt of corn) that varied in virulence were determined. Specific agglutination (agglutination titer per milligram of protein per milliliter) values were correlated negatively with virulence ratings. Strains with high specific agglutination values (15 or higher) were avirulent or weakly virulent; strains with low specific agglutination values (10 or lower) were highly virulent, with two exceptions. Avirulent strains produced butyrous colonies and released only small amounts of extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) into the medium, and the cells lacked capsules; virulent strains produced fluidal colonies and released large amounts of EPS, and the cells were capsulated. There was a strong correlation between the amount of EPS produced by each strain (as determined by increase in viscosity of the medium) and the specific agglutination value; in contrast, lipopolysaccharide compositions were similar in all strains. When cells of six fluidal strains were washed by repeatedly centrifuging and resuspending them in buffer, they were agglutinated more strongly by corn agglutinin than were unwashed cells. When avirulent cells were washed, their specific agglutination values did not increase significantly. Eight EPS-deficient mutants of E. stewartii, selected for resistance to the capsule-dependent bacteriophage K9, had lower virulence but higher specific agglutination than did their corresponding wild-type parents. Production of EPS appears to be essential for virulence; EPS may prevent agglutination of bacteria in the host, thus allowing their multiplication
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