Ultrastructural differentiation of the genogroups in the genus Ehrlichia

V. L. Popov, Violet C. Han, S. M. Chen, J. S. Dumler, H. M. Feng, T. G. Andreadis, R. B. Tesh, D. H. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Ultrastructural characteristics of 15 strains and isolates of ehrlichiae belonging to three genogroups, or clades of genetically related organisms united in the genera Ehrlichia, Cowdria, Anaplasma, Neorickettsia and a strain of Wolbachia pipientis which represents a fourth genogroup in this cluster of species, were studied in continuous cell culture or in vivo: E. canis (Oklahoma strain and VHE isolate), E. muris (AS 145), E. chaffeensis (Arkansas, 91HE17 and Sapulpa), human granulocytic ehrlichiae (HGE)(BDS, 96HE27, 96HE37, #54, #55 and #72), E. equi (MRK), E. sennetsu (Miyayama), E. risticii (HRC-IL). Wolbachia pipientis was studied in the naturally infected Aedes albopictus mosquito cell line Aa23. All organisms were similar in the normal ultrastructure of individual cells and in the ability to form abnormal, pathological ehrlichial cells of the same type irrespective of the species. Normally all ehrlichiae studied in cell culture existed in two morphological forms - reticulate and dense-cored cells, both of which could divide by binary fission. Most alterations were related to their membranes, especially the cell wall. Differences in the structure of intravacuolar microcolonies (morulae) of ehrlichiae and their inter-relations with the host cells allowed differentiation of the genogroups: the E. sanis-E. chaffeensis-E. muris genogroup formed large morulae, with many ehrlichiae, often suspended in a fibrillar matrix, and the host cell mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum usually aggregated near the morulae and were in contact with the morula membrane; the E. phagocytophila-E. equi-HGE group morulae had no fibrillar matrix, no contacts with host cell mitochodria, and they did not aggregate around the morulae; E. sennetsu-E. risticii group usually developed in small individual vacuoles that did not fuse with each other and divided along with the ehrlichiae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-251
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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