Rapid killing of Escherichia coli by intact or disrupted rabbit granulocytes or by granulocyte fractions was found to be accompanied by an equally rapid increase in permeability of the E.coli envelope. This increase in permeability was detected by determining entry of substances that normally do not cross E.coli's permeability barrier, namely actinomycin D and o-nitrophenyl-ß-D-galactopyranoside (ONPG), a substrate for cytoplasmic ß-galactosidase.

Because E.coli continue to incorporate radioactively labeled precursors into bacterial RNA and protein for at least 1 h, despite rapid killing by granulocytes, entry of actinomycin D could be measured by its inhibitory effect on macromolecular synthesis. Entry was evident within minutes after exposure to granulocytes or granulocyte fractions and is independent of pH over a range of 6.5–9.0.

The effect of disrupted granulocytes or partially purified fractions on susceptibility of E.coli to actinomycin D and entry of ONPG is dose dependent. That the entry of actinomycin D and ONPG was not caused by gross destruction of the envelope is indicated by two sets of observations: (a) net influx of 42K was maintained for at least 15 min, even though efflux of potassium was immediately accelerated upon addition of bactericidal concentrations of granulocyte fractions; (b) ß-galactosidase did not leak out of E.coli under conditions that produce maximal inhibition by actinomycin D.

Different species of gram-negative bacteria exhibited different susceptibilities to the bactericidal and permeability effects of granulocyte fractions. Thus, three strains of E.coli and one strain of Salmonella typhimurium were highly susceptible to both the bactericidal and the permeability enhancing effects of granulocyte fractions, whereas two strains of Serratia marcescens and one strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa were resistant to both effects. Another strain of P. aeruginosa was rendered susceptible to actinomycin D without being killed and two strains of S. typhimurium remained insensitive to actinomycin D while being killed by granulocytes.

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