Efficient phagocytosis of Klebsiella pneumoniae strains that poorly bind to human polymorphonuclear leukocytes


  • Carla Pruzzo Institute of Microbiology, University of Ancona, Ancona, Italy
  • Carlos A. Guzman Division of Microbiology, GBF-National Research Centre for Biotechnology, Braunschweig, Germany


Klebsiella pneumoniae, non-opsonic phagocytosis, cell binding, internalization, fimbriated strains


The phagocytosis process of unencapsulated MIAT-negative strains that, although binding very poorly to human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) at 4°C, are efficiently killed by these cells at 37°C, was studied. At 37°C the number of bacteria bound to the PMN external surface was similar to that observed at 4°C (about 100 bacteria/100 PMN after 60 min); on the contrary the number of internalized bacteria was much higher (from 500 bacteria/100 PMN after 60 min). Interactions between phagocytosis-sensitive Klebsiella pneumoniae strains (PSK) and PMN were then compared with those of two isogenic Escherichia coli strains with and without type 1 fimbriae. Whereas PSK strain binding to blocked PMN was very slow and became significant only after 5–6 h, that of phagocytosis-sensitive fimbriated E. coli was rapid and efficient. Phagocytosis-resistant, non fimbriated E. coli strain bound with an efficiency that, within the first 60 min, was not very different from that of the PSK strains. However, longer incubations led to increases in PSK binding, whereas unfimbriated E. coli remained constant. PSK and fimbriated E. coli strains were efficiently internalized and killed, whereas the unfimbriated E. coli strain was not. It is suggested that PMN can phagocytize unopsonized bacteria through two different mechanisms. By one mechanism, observed with the fimbriated E. coli strain, PMN bind many more bacteria than those they can internalize. By the other, observed with PSK strains, PMN bind only the bacteria they can immediately internalize.






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