Shaken or stirred?: Comparison of methods for dispersion of Mycoplasma pneumoniae aggregates for persistence in vivo

Academic Article


  • Background Mycoplasma pneumoniae (Mpn), one of the smallest self-replicating prokaryotes, is known to readily adhere to host cells and to form aggregates in suspension. Having only one cell membrane and no cell wall, mycoplasmas present questions as to optimal aggregate disruption method while minimizing cell death in vitro. We compared conventional vortex mixing with other methods for disruption of bacterial aggregates and for its effect on cell viability. Methods Strain UAB PO1, a clinical Mpn isolate, was dispersed using a conventional vortex mixer with or without nonionic detergent (0.1% and 0.01% Tween-20), a probe-type ultrasonicator, or repeated passage through a 27-gauge needle. The resulting suspensions were assayed for recoverable colony-forming units (CFU). Flow cytometric assays were carried out to examine particle size and membrane integrity with the transmembrane potential dye DiBAC4. Wet Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (Wet-STEM) was performed for high resolution imaging of the resultant cell suspensions. Additional Mpn strains and other human mollicute species were assayed in a similar manner. Mice were infected with either vortexed or sonicated UAB PO1 and bacterial persistence was examined via Mpn-specific 16S qPCR. Results Comparison between dispersion methods showed a 10-fold enrichment of recoverable Mpn CFU with sonication compared to other methods. Time-course analysis showed significantly lower bacterial CFU with vortexing compared to sonication at all time points. Flow cytometric analysis showed increased cellular membrane damage via DiBAC4 staining in sonicated suspensions, but a decreased particle size. Wet-STEM imaging showed markedly improved dispersion with sonication compared to conventional vortex treatment, and surprisingly vortexing for 30┬ás produced up to a 100-fold drop in CFU. Results similar to UAB PO1 were obtained with three additional Mpn strains and other Mollicutes species, although they exhibited differential susceptibilities to disaggregation by sonication. Finally, increased persistence of the organism in a mouse model of infection was observed using sonicated suspensions for initial infection. Conclusions Sonication is superior to vortexing with or without nonionic detergent or repeated 27-gauge needle passage for dispersion of Mpn aggregates while preserving cell viability. Preparation of Mpn suspensions for in vivo experiments is best accomplished using brief sonication due to the dramatic increase in CFU produced by sonication. Dispersion methods may affect the final experimental results and should be an important consideration for future research involving mycoplasma species.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 27031897
  • Author List

  • Totten AH; Xiao L; Crabb DM; Ratliff AE; Dybvig K; Waites KB; Atkinson TP
  • Start Page

  • 56
  • End Page

  • 62
  • Volume

  • 132