Ultrastructure of the cell wall and peribacillary substances of various mycobacteria (32 strains of 18 species) grown was studied by a freeze-fracture technique. Peribacillary substances differed in shape among species and even among strains of the same species, and were classified into five types: (1) amorphous substances; (2) multi-layered sheaths with no filamentous units; (3) structures composed of filaments of 2-4 nm diameter, which were further classified into three subtypes according to the arrangement of the filaments; (4) helical fibres; and (5) single fibres, or networks of fibrous structures, with no visible substructures. No strains revealed peribacillary structures resembling those of uncultivable . These results have implications for the mechanism of freeze-fracturing in mycobacterial walls.


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