Chapter 19 : Ultrastructure of

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was an early object of study by electron microscopy, consonant with its importance as a human pathogen. This chapter describes what is understood of the ultrastructure of and points out problems of interpretation and areas where further investigation, probably involving the development of new techniques, is needed. Most bacteria do not possess the elaborate system of internal compartments found in eukaryotic cells, and the information obtained about mycobacteria by electron microscopy is primarily information about the envelope layers, a discussion of which forms the major part of the chapter. It also describes the interaction between bacterium and host cells and some aspects of the ultrastructure of this interaction. Membranes of mycobacteria, including , appear in ultrathin sections as classic bilayers, with two electrondense layers separated by a transparent layer. If the hypothesis is that the walls of and other mycobacteria form permeability barriers somewhat analogous to the outer membranes of gram-negative bacteria, then the space between the outer leaflet of the membrane and the wall forms a compartment analogous to the periplasmic space of gram-negative bacteria. The commonest type of host cell is the macrophage; inside this cell, the bacteria occur within vacuoles, apparently the phagosomes formed as the bacteria are engulfed by the cells.

Citation: Brennan P, Draper P. 1994. Ultrastructure of , p 271-284. In Bloom B (ed), Tuberculosis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818357.ch19
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Image of Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Appearance of mycobacterial envelope in thin sections. (A) Electron micrograph of envelope and part of cell contents of 425. Cells were fixed by freeze-substitution ( ) to optimize preservation of structure and to reduce extraction of lipid components by solvents used in processing. (Photograph kindly supplied by Terry Paul, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.) Bar indicates 30 nm. (B) Interpretation of image shown in panel A in terms of layer structure described in text. Thickness of layers is enlarged about twofold compared with thickness in the micrograph. Modified from Fig. 15 of Paul and Beveridge (1992).

Citation: Brennan P, Draper P. 1994. Ultrastructure of , p 271-284. In Bloom B (ed), Tuberculosis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818357.ch19
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Image of Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Model of the structure of the mycobacterial cell envelope. Positions of the asymmetric plasma membrane, peptidoglycan, and covalently attached arabinogalactan are indicated, together with LAM and phosphatidylinositol mannosides (PIM), at least some of which are known to be associated with the plasma membrane. A possible arrangement of the wall-associated lipids is also shown. Mycolic acids residues are known to be attached to the majority of the terminal and penultimate arabinose residues of the arabinogalactan. Since the mycolates possess two hydrocarbon chains of unequal lengths that would form an irregular monolayer, it is proposed that these are complemented by two classes of polar lipids with medium-chain (e.g., mycocerosates) and short-chain (e.g., acylglycerols) fatty acyl chains, respectively. There is evidence for a small number of porins in the envelope, presumably within the outer hydrophobic bilayer. Adapted from Minnikin (1982), McNeil and Brennan (1991), and Nikaido et al. (1993).

Citation: Brennan P, Draper P. 1994. Ultrastructure of , p 271-284. In Bloom B (ed), Tuberculosis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818357.ch19
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