Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 21912368
J Vis Exp 2011;(55):e3241
During bacterial infections a sequence of interactions occur between the pathogen and its host. Bacterial adhesion to the host cell surface is often the initial and determining step of the pathogenesis. Although experimentally adhesion is mostly studied in static conditions adhesion actually takes place in the presence of flowing liquid. First encounters between bacteria and their host often occur at the mucosal level, mouth, lung, gut, eye, etc. where mucus flows along the surface of epithelial cells. Later in infection, pathogens occasionally access the blood circulation causing life-threatening illnesses such as septicemia, sepsis and meningitis. A defining feature of these infections is the ability of these pathogens to interact with endothelial cells in presence of circulating blood. The presence of flowing liquid, mucus or blood for instance, determines adhesion because it generates a mechanical force on the pathogen. To characterize the effect of flowing liquid one usually refers to the notion of shear stress, which is the tangential force exerted per unit area by a fluid moving near a stationary wall, expressed in dynes/cm(2). Intensities of shear stress vary widely according to the different vessels type, size, organ, location etc. (0-100 dynes/cm(2)). Circulation in capillaries can reach very low shear stress values and even temporarily stop during periods ranging between a few seconds to several minutes (1). On the other end of the spectrum shear stress in arterioles can reach 100 dynes/cm(2)(2). The impact of shear stress on different biological processes has been clearly demonstrated as for instance during the interaction of leukocytes with the endothelium (3). To take into account this mechanical parameter in the process of bacterial adhesion we took advantage of an experimental procedure based on the use of a disposable flow chamber (4). Host cells are grown in the flow chamber and fluorescent bacteria are introduced in the flow controlled by a syringe pump. We initially focused our investigations on the bacterial pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, a Gram-negative bacterium responsible for septicemia and meningitis. The procedure described here allowed us to study the impact of shear stress on the ability of the bacteria to: adhere to cells (1), to proliferate on the cell surface (5)and to detach to colonize new sites (6) (Figure 1). Complementary technical information can be found in reference 7. Shear stress values presented here were chosen based on our previous experience(1) and to represent values found in the literature. The protocol should be applicable to a wide range of pathogens with specific adjustments depending on the objectives of the study.