SUMMARY: The intracellular esterases of 80 strains of Proteus and Providencia were analysed by the acrylamide-agarose zymogram technique using several synthetic substrates.

The esterase bands were classified in five main groups. The αA-esterase bands hydrolysed α-naphthyl acetate and were resistant or relatively insensitive to di-iso-fluoropropyl phosphate (DFP). The αB-esterase band hydrolysed both α-naphthyl acetate and α-naphthyl butyrate and were very sensitive to DFP. Both groups of esterase bands were inactivated by heat. The βA- and βB-esterase bands hydrolysed β-naphthyl acetate and were sensitive to DFP; these were distinguishable by the difference in their relative activity towards β-naphthyl butyrate and in their relative stability to heat. The αβ-esterase bands hydrolysed α- and β-naphthyl acetates and α- and β-naphthyl butyrates; they were inactivated by heat and were sensitive to DFP.

The distribution of these esterase bands among the strains of Proteus and Providencia and their electrophoretic patterns established esterase profile types which correlate with the classification based on traditional bacteriological tests. The degree of inter-strain similarity in esterase pattern varied highly among species. The homogeneity of and especially of contrasted with the heterogeneity of other species. This disparity suggests that the bacteria of the tribe Proteae have not the same degree of intra-specific differentiation in physico-chemical properties of esterases.


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