Many studies of the interaction between phagocytes and mycoplasmas have given controversial results. This is probably due both to the small size of the microorganisms and their ability to attach to the cell membrane, making it difficult to distinguish between adsorption and ingestion. To overcome these difficulties we took advantage of a phenomenon we noted occuring concomitantly with phase-contrast microscope-monitored phagocytosis of heat-killed C. albicans, i.e., a reduction of [3H]uridine uptake by macrophages from culture medium. This approach allowed us to measure the ability of mouse peritoneal macrophages and the macrophage-like P 388 D 1 continuouscell line to phagocytose Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Acholeplasma laidlawii. Live, UV-killed and specific antiserum-opsonized mycoplasmas were tested. A. laidlawii was ingested under all the conditions mentioned above, while live M. pneumoniae was not phagocytosed unless UV-killed. Phagocytosis of UV-killed M. pneumoniae was directly verified by transmission electron microscopy studies. Data obtained with opsonized M. pneumoniae indicated no ingestion by mouse peritoneal macrophages and incomplete phagocytosis with P388 D 1 macrophages, suggesting that different responses by different types of phagocytes can be observed. In spite of a lack of information concerning the biological meaning of the inhibition of macrophage RNA metabolism during phagocytosis, our data suggest that this phenomenon may be used to study the phagocytosis of microorganisms which are difficult to visualize.
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