Effects of human serum on the growth and metabolism of Neisseria gonorrhoeae: An alternative view of serum

B. E. Britigan, Y. Chai, M. S. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Humans are the sole reservoir of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, an organism which undergoes a marked increase in metabolic rate after exposure to a low-molecular weight, heat-stable component(s) of human serum. Further studies on the effect of serum on gonococcal metabolism were undertaken. Gonococcal broth (GCB) is commonly used for in vitro cultivation of gonococci. Gonococci suspended in GCB plus 10% serum exhibited oxygen consumption rates of 139% (P < 0.01) and 456% (P < 0.01) of those suspended in GCB or Hanks balanced salt solution, respectively. A twofold increase in growth rate also resulted from the addition of 10% serum to GCB. Gonococcal 14C-labeled adenine incorporation increased threefold with 10% serum supplementation of Hanks balanced salt solution. Dialysis of serum in 1,000-molecular-weight exclusion tubing removed the stimulatory factor(s). Neither correction of anion-cation concentrations altered by dialysis nor addition of substances of known importance to the metabolism of gonococci (i.e., lactate, pyruvate, cysteine, ATP, AMP, NADPH, amino acids, malate, and glutathione) to dialyzed serum reconstituted stimulatory capacity. The effect of serum on gonococcal glucose-catabolic pathways was measured by modified radiospirometry. An apparent threefold increase in Entner-Doudoroff and pentose phosphate pathway activities was induced by 10% serum, as was the increased shunting of glucose-derived glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate into these pathways. These metabolic changes did not allow specific identification of the serum stimulatory factor(s). Acetate, the major by-product of gonococcal glucose catabolism, inhibited gonococcal oxygen consumption as previously reported. A high-molecular-weight serum component, probably albumin, reversed acetate-mediated inhibition of gonococcal oxygen consumption, identifying a second mechanism by which serum increases gonococcal metabolism. These results suggest that supplementation of growth media with serum should be considered to provide N. gonorrhoeae with conditions more consistent with its normal environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-744
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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