Monoclonal antibodies were used as cytochemical markers to study surface interactions between endosymbiotic Rhizobium bacteroids from pea root nodules and the encircling peribacteroid membranes, which are of plant origin. Monoclonal antibodies that react with Rhizobium lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or with a plant membrane glycoprotein were used as markers for material from the bacteroid outer membrane or the peribacteroid membrane, respectively. Membrane-enclosed bacteroids were isolated from nodule homogenates by sucrose gradient centrifugation, and the encircling peribacteroid membrane was released by mild osmotic shock treatment. Using an immunochemical technique (sandwich ELISA), it was shown that 1–5% of the LPS antigen released into the peribacteroid fraction by mild osmotic shock treatment was physically associated with peribacteroid membrane through a detergent-sensitive linkage. This association could be visualized when freshly prepared peribacteroid material was immobilized on gold grids and examined by electron microscopy after dual antibody immunogold treatment and subsequent negative staining. The distribution of LPS antigen within infected nodule cells was also investigated by immunogold staining for thin sections of nodule tissue fixed in glutaraldehyde, and a close association between LPS antigen and peribacteroid membrane was often seen.

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