The effect of C5b-9 deposition on the envelope of target Gram-negative bacteria was studied. In order to understand the changes occurring after complement deposition on the bacterial surface, the preparation of Gram-negative bacterial membranes by different methods involving the osmotic lysis of spheroplasts was investigated. Subsequent fractionation of the outer membrane (OM) and cytoplasmic membrane (CM) by sucrose-density-gradient centrifugation showed differences in the membrane profiles obtained. The results indicate that optimum separation of OM and CM components requires effective digestion of DNA in the total membrane preparation before density-gradient fractionation. Salmonella minnesota Re595 carrying the intermediate complement complex C5b-7 (BC1-7) or C5b-8 (BC1-8) were efficiently killed upon incubation with purified C8 + C9 or C9 respectively. Human-alpha-thrombin-cleaved C9 (C9n), which is unable to form tubular poly(C9), was shown to be more effective at killing than native C9. By using an optimized system for the separation of OM and CM, it was found that, subsequent to lethal complement attack, the CM could not be recovered when C9 was used as the terminal complement component, but was recovered with reduced yield when C9n replaced C9. The results show that inability to recover the CM on sucrose density gradients after complement attack may not be a consequence of an essential membrane damage event required for complement-mediated killing of Gram-negative bacteria.

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