Many intracellular parasites are capable of penetrating host epithelial barriers. To study this process in more detail we examined the interactions between the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella choleraesuis and polarized epithelial monolayers of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells grown on membrane filters. Association of bacteria with the MDCK cell apical surface was an active event, requiring bacterial RNA and protein synthesis, and was blocked by low temperatures. Salmonella were internalized within a membrane-bound vacuole and exhibited penetration through, but not between MDCK cells. A maximum of 14 Salmonella per MDCK cell crossed the monolayer per hour to the basolateral surface yet the monolayer remained viable and impermeable to Escherichia coli. Apical S. choleraesuis infection resulted in an increase in paracellular permeability but the MDCK intercellular contacts were not significantly disrupted. Basolateral S. choleraesuis infection was inefficient, and only small numbers of S. choleraesuis penetrated to the apical medium.

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