The killing of gram-negative bacteria by the bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein ( BPI ) of neutrophils requires surface binding, and is accompanied by a discrete increase in outer membrane permeability to small hydrophobic substances. This outer membrane alteration appears to be related to perturbation of outer membrane lipopolysaccharides (LPS). BPI causes extracellular release of LPS, but only at supra-saturating doses. Nevertheless, because the organization of LPS in the outer membrane is altered by pretreatment of bacteria with saturating doses of BPI (producing maximal bactericidal and permeability-increasing effects), the amount of LPS released during Tris-EDTA treatment is reduced by 80%. BPI markedly (approximately 50%) and selectively stimulates biosynthesis of LPS, suggesting an attempt by BPI -killed bacteria to repair outer membrane damage. The removal of surface-bound BPI by 40 mM Mg2+ initiates time- and temperature-dependent repair of the outer membrane permeability barrier and a further increase (approximately 170% of control) in LPS synthesis, even though the bacteria are no longer viable. Mg2+-induced repair is blocked when: 1) a temperature-sensitive mutant (Salmonella typhimurium HD50 ) with a conditional defect in LPS synthesis is incubated at the nonpermissive temperature (42 degrees C); and 2) LPS synthesis is selectively inhibited by a diazaborine derivative (Sandoz drug No. 84474). In contrast, repair is normal by the mutant at permissive temperatures (30 degrees C) and by the parent strain (S. typhimurium AG701 ) at both 30 degrees C and 42 degrees C. Inhibition (greater than 85%) of protein synthesis by chloramphenicol has little or no effect on repair. These findings indicate that the repair of the permeability barrier after the removal of BPI from the surface requires newly made LPS, but apparently no biosynthesis of other outer membrane constituents, which strongly suggests that the effects of BPI on LPS are mainly responsible for the break-down of the outer membrane permeability barrier.

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