The interaction of Escherichia coli with normal human serum: the kinetics of serum-mediated lipopolysaccharide release and its dissociation from bacterial killing. Academic Article uri icon


  • We have examined the killing of E. coli and kinetics of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) release after the exposure of the bacteria to normal human serum (NHS) and sera deficient in complement components, or with inactivated complement components. LPS of the galactose epimerase-deficient strain E. coli J5 were specifically radiolabeled by growing the bacteria in a medium containing [3H]galactose. Exposure of the washed bacteria to NHS resulted in a significant reduction (greater than 99%) in viability within 15 min and the concomitant release of radiolabeled LPS. However, maximal release of LPS was consistently 30% of the total radiolabel incorporated into the LPS molecules. The amount of tritium-labeled LPS released was shown to be directly proportional to the concentration of bacteria exposed to NHS, suggesting that release of LPS was not limited by the availability of some critical serum component(s). The consumption of complement in NHS by incubation with E. coli was demonstrated by decreased alternative and classical pathway-specific hemolytic activity. The use of Factor D-depleted and VEM-treated human sera demonstrated that, with these bacteria, both the alternative and classical pathways of complement contribute to bacterial killing and release of LPS. It is noteworthy that, in VEM-treated and Factor D-depleted sera, the rate of killing and the kinetics of LPS release were somewhat slower as compared to control serum. Bacterial killing in C7-depleted and C9-deficient human sera was minimal. Neither killing nor LPS release occurred in heat-inactivated (56 degrees C, 30 min) human serum. The amount of [3H]LPS released by C9-deficient serum was qualitatively similar to the amount released by the action of NHS. Tritium-labeled LPS was not released in C7-depleted serum. These data indicate that bacterial killing can be dissociated from LPS release, and suggest that, whereas LPS release may be necessary for the bactericidal effects of serum complement, it is probably not sufficient to effect killing. Furthermore, a significant fraction of LPS can be removed from the outer membrane of the bacteria without an apparent affect on viability.

published proceedings

  • J Immunol

author list (cited authors)

  • Tesh, V. L., Duncan, R. L., & Morrison, D. C.

complete list of authors

  • Tesh, VL||Duncan, RL||Morrison, DC

publication date

  • August 1986