Quantitative in vitro assay for 'corncob' formation

P. Lancy, B. Appelbaum, S. C. Holt, B. Rosan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interaction of Bacterionema matruchotii with strains of Streptococcus sanguis produces a structure which morphologically resembles a corncob. To determine the specific bacterial surface receptors involved in the interaction, we developed a quantitative assay. The assay consisted of mixing saline suspensions of [CH3-3H]thymidine-labeled streptococci and B. matruchotii, incubating at 37°C for 2 h, and filtering the mixture through a 5-μm polycarbonate membrane filter. The free cocci and filaments passed through the filter, but the corncobs were retained. Estimates of the number of corncobs formed were obtained by quantitating the radioactivity retained on the membranes relative to that of controls of streptococci alone. Although saturation of the Bacterionema occurred at a ratio of streptococci to Bacterionema of 10:1 (Klett units), a 2:1 ratio was chosen because of the increased sensitivity of the assay at this ratio. the percentage of streptococci binding at this ratio was 18.6±8.1 (standard deviation). All five Bacterionema strains tested formed corncobs; in contrast, only three strains of S. sanguis were positive. These were serotype 1 strains which had localized surface 'fuzz.' Although scanning electron microscopic observations revealed an almost random distribution of cocci along the filament surface, transmission electron microscopy revealed that the streptococci were attached to the Bacterionema by the surface fuzz. No differences in corncob formation were observed in sodium phosphate buffer, pH 6 to 8, at phosphate concentrations ranging from 0.005 to 0.05 M. Concentrations of NaCl or KCl up to 0.25 M did not affect corncob formation, and low concentrations of CaCl2 increased corncob formation slightly, whereas MgCl2, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, and citrate buffers reduced the number of streptococci binding to the filaments. These results suggest that divalent cations may play a role in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-670
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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