subsp. is an anaerobic, gram-positive rod. On isolation forms cellular arrangements resembling test-tube brushes (TTB). Although TTB decreased in size and number on repeated laboratory subculture in enriched media, media poor in available iron enhanced formation of these. Plasmids were not demonstrated, even after chloramphenicol enhancement. To characterise the nature and possible physiological roles of the structures of the TTB, they were examined by transmission electronmicroscopy (TEM) with thin-section, negative-staining, shadow-casting, freeze-etching and freeze-fracturing techniques, and by scanning electronmicroscopy (SEM). Previous studies by phase-contrast microscopy revealed an amorphous core, the size of which varied in direct proportion to the number of associated bacterial cells. Thin sections of the TTB showed a gram-positive cell wall with additional surface layers. Negative staining, shadow casting and freeze etching revealed a surface layer comprising subunits in tetragonal array (P4 symmetry). Shadow casting showed also that the outermost layer of the cells was composed of fibrillar structures closely associated with, but distinct from, the tetragonal layer. The fibrils extended from the cell surface in clumps or strands. The presence of these fibrils was confirmed by the freeze-fracture technique and SEM. Chemical analysis of the core material of the TTB showed it to be low in carbohydrate (0.06%) and protein (0.2%). Energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry showed that the core was composed mostly of iron. SEM evidence suggests that the intertwining of the fibrils of several individual cells was responsible for the unique brush-like arrangements characteristic of and may function to entrap or localise iron within the core, possibly as a mechanism of iron sequestration.


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