The heparin-binding properties of six different species of coagulase-negative staphylococci were examined by a particle agglutination assay. Heparin (mol.wt 4000-6000), mildly treated with sodium periodate, was covalently coupled to amino-modified latex beads (0.72 μm diameter). The particle agglutination assay was validated by comparing results with the adhesion (percentage binding of adherent cells) of coagulase-negative staphylococcal strains to heparinised microtitration plates. Of 38 different coagulase-negative staphylococcal strains tested, 30 showed agglutination reactivity with heparincoated latex beads. Strains of different coagulase-negative staphylococcal species agglutinated heparin-coated latex beads to various extents (e.g., cells of strains reacted more strongly than cells of strains). The agglutination reaction was significantly inhibited by fucoidan, suramin, λ-carrageenan and other sulphated compounds, but not by non-sulphated carbohydrate polymers such as hyaluronic acid. Agglutination of staphylococcal cells with heparin-coated latex beads was completely blocked by a cell-surface extract. These results suggest that structures responsible for heparin binding are exposed on the cell surface.


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