Summary: Forty-six cultures of (including clinical, food and collection strains) were serotyped, characterized for motility, haemolysis and phospholipase activities and tested for lectin agglutination using a four-lectin set. Lectin reactivity (i.e. agglutination by one or more of the four lectins) was observed in all 12 clinical isolates, 16 of the 23 food isolates and eight of the 11 collection strains. Virulence was evaluated based on strains' ability to invade the human enterocyte-like cell line Caco-2. In gentamicin survival experiments, recovery of viable intracellular bacteria among lectin-unreactive strains was usually 100-1000-fold lower than among lectin-reactive haemolytic strains, and lower than among nonhaemolytic strains. Considerable cytopathogenic effects were produced by lectin-reactive haemolytic strains in trypan-blue-stained cell monolayers, whereas lectin-unreactive and nonhaemolytic strains produced no detectable cytopathogenic effect. Among lectin-reactive strains, the number of listerial cells associated with Caco-2 monolayers was more than tenfold greater than among lectin-unreactive strains. Cell invasion was inhibited by pretreatment of Caco-2 cells with sugars recognized by the lectins or of listeriae with enzymes which removed the same sugars from the bacterial surface. The results suggest that the study of lectin interactions could be helpful in understanding the pathogenicity potential of isolates of food and environmental origin.


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