Summary: adherence to epithelial cells is the first step in the infectious process, but in spite of its importance, current methods for the quantitative measurement of adherence of to epithelial cells have some serious limitations. They are based on filtration assays and either microscopic or radiometric analysis. The adherence reaction is usually carried out with a large excess of yeasts (100-fold) over epithelial cells in order to perform the microscopic analysis, which is slow, subjective and limited to 100-200 cells and thus lacks statistical power. The radiometric analysis fails to measure individual cells. A method for measuring yeast adherence that overcomes these problems has been developed. It is based on labelling the yeasts with the fluorogenic marker 2′,7′-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5(6)-carboxyfluorescein acetoxymethyl ester (BCECF) prior to the adherence reaction, and analysing 10 epithelial cells by flow cytometry, while nonbound yeasts are excluded by gating. Two subpopulations of buccal epithelial cells (BECs) which differ in their mean fluorescence intensities per cell (MFIs) were observed: one with MFI which did not exceed nonspecific fluorescence, and the other with MFI as high or higher than the MFI of labelled yeasts. The two subpopulations represent yeast-free and yeast-binding epithelial cells, respectively, and the MFI increment of the BECs is a quantitative measure of the extent of yeast adherence. Control experiments confirming previously described basic features of adherence, such as enhanced adherence at increasing yeast excess, diminished adherence of trypsin-treated or heat-inactivated yeasts, and the differential adherence of various species, supported the validity of the assay. The possibility of studying adherence reliably at low yeast: epithelial cell ratios, which better mimic adhesion as it occurs , is an important advantage of the assay. New findings, using this method, included the observation that exfoliated BECs from diabetic patients exhibited the same capacity for adherence as cells from healthy controls, and that epithelial cells from early human ontogenic stages had a significantly lower adherence level than those from later stages.


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