Effect of L-form Streptococcus pyogenes and of lipoteichoic acid on human cells in tissue culture.


These studies showed the destruction of growing primary and established human cell lines with a predilection for the group A streptococci by an L-form of Streptococcus pyogenes adapted to grow in isotonic media. Also, this L-form was detected by fluorescent antibody for longer periods of time than by viable count in infected but recovered tissue culture monolayers. Additional studies with human heart cells showed changes in their protein profile and fatty acid content (but not composition) after L-form infection. This report is the first to show that the morphological changes and death of human kidney cells by this viable L-form were mimicked by the structurally different lipoteichoic acids from this organism and its parental streptococcus. These lipoteichoic acids were also equally effective in preventing attachment of S. pyogenes to human cell monolayers, but their deacylation obviated these two activities. Finally, the attachment of the isotonic L-form, as well as the parental streptococcus, to growing human kidney cells suggested that a rigid cell wall is not a prerequisite for host attachment in vitro.

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