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Evidence that vesicles containing living, virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Mycobacterium avium in cultured human macrophages are not acidic.

By A J Crowle, R Dahl, E Ross and M H May


Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium avium multiply in cultured human macrophages (MP) within membrane-enclosed vesicles. These vesicles are generally assumed to be acidic. The evidence most frequently cited for this assumption is that pyrazinamide, which requires an acid pH to be effective, is effective and streptomycin, which loses most of its activity at a low pH, is poorly effective against tubercle bacilli. This assumption was tested by using the two weak bases chloroquine and NH4Cl to raise the pH of acidic vesicles in MP experimentally infected with M. tuberculosis or M. avium. An immunocytochemical locator of acidic regions in the MP was used to monitor the association of intracellular bacilli with acidity. MP were infected with M. tuberculosis or M. avium and incubated with various combinations of the drugs and the weak bases. Replication of the bacteria in the MP was measured by culture counts. Intracellular associations of the mycobacteria with acidity were assessed by electron micrographs and by using the weak base 3-(2,4-dinitroanilino)-3'-amino-N-methyl dipropylamine, which was detected with colloidal gold-labeled antibodies. It was confirmed by immunocytochemistry that both chloroquine and NH4Cl raise the pH of acidic vesicles in the infected MP. However, neither caused any pH-related change in the antimycobacterial activities of pyrazinamide or streptomycin or of the pH-independent drug isoniazid. Immunochemical analyses showed acidity to be associated with killed but not living mycobacteria in the MP. These findings suggest that living M. tuberculosis and M. avium are located in human MP in vesicles which are not acidic

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1991
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:257922
Provided by: PubMed Central
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