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Identification of aggregation substances of Enterococcus faecalis cells after induction by sex pheromones

An immunological and ultrastructural investigation


The sex pheromone system of Enterococcus faecalis is responsible for the clumping response of a plasmid carrying donor strain with a corresponding plasmid free recipient strain due to the production of sex pheromones by the recipient strain. The clumping response is mediated by a surface material (called aggregation substance) which is synthesized upon addition of sex pheromones to the cultures. Here we show that after induction a dense layer of “hairlike” structures is formed on the cell wall of the bacteria. These hairlike structures are responsible for the cell-cell contact which leads to the aggregation of cells. Formation of these structures was specific, only occurring after the addition of homologous sex pheromone.

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sex pheromone specific for plasmid pAD1


sex pheromone specific for plasmid pPD1


cell wall


conjugative plasmid specifically transferred in the presence of cAD1


conjugative plasmid specifically transferred in the presence of cPD1


10 mM Na-phosphate pH 7.5, 0.85% NaCl


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Correspondence to Reinhard Wirth.

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Galli, D., Wirth, R. & Wanner, G. Identification of aggregation substances of Enterococcus faecalis cells after induction by sex pheromones. Arch. Microbiol. 151, 486–490 (1989).

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Key words

  • Aggregation substance
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Sex pheromone system
  • Transmission electron microscopy
  • Immunogold labelling technique