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Rickettsia felis, the etiologic agent of spotted fever, is maintained in cat fleas by vertical transmission and resembles other tick-borne spotted fever group rickettsiae. In the present study, we utilized an Ixodes scapularis-derived tick cell line, ISE6, to achieve isolation and propagation of R. felis. A cytopathic effect of increased vacuolization was commonly observed in R. felis-infected cells, while lysis of host cells was not evident despite large numbers of rickettsiae. Electron microscopy identified rickettsia-like organisms in ISE6 cells, and sequence analyses of portions of the citrate synthase (gltA), 16S rRNA, Rickettsia genus-specific 17-kDa antigen, and spotted fever group-specific outer membrane protein A (ompA) genes and, notably, R. felis conjugative plasmids indicate that this cultivatable strain (LSU) was R. felis. Establishment of R. felis (LSU) in a tick-derived cell line provides an alternative and promising system for the expansion of studies investigating the interactions between R. felis and arthropod hosts. Copyright © 2006, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

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Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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