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Infect Immun. Jul 1997; 65(7): 2542–2547.
PMCID: PMC175359

Mycoplasma synoviae has two distinct phase-variable major membrane antigens, one of which is a putative hemagglutinin.


Mycoplasma synoviae is a major pathogen of poultry, causing synovitis and respiratory infection. A cluster of 45- to 50-kDa membrane proteins is immunodominant in strain WVU-1853. Four distinct proteins were identified in this cluster by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Monoclonal antibodies and monospecific antisera against each established that they fell into two groups, MSPA and MSPB, each containing two members distinguishable by a difference in hydrophobicity. A 25- to 30-kDa membrane protein (MSPC) was shown to be antigenically related to the MSPB proteins. Considerable variation in the size and expression of MSPA and MSPB was observed among different strains of M. synoviae. Examination of expression in colonies of strain WVU-1853 established that both MSPA and MSPB (and MSPC) were phase variable. Immunostaining of MSPB (and MSPC) with monoclonal antibodies exhibited quantal variation, with three distinct levels observed between and within colonies. Hemadsorption by M. synoviae colonies was also found to be phase variable, with some colonies exhibiting sectorial expression of hemadsorption. Monospecific antisera against MSPA inhibited hemagglutination, but neither monoclonal antibodies nor monospecific antisera against MSPB could inhibit hemagglutination. However, loss of the capacity to hemadsorb by individual clones was associated with loss of expression of both MSPA and MSPB. These findings have elucidated the complexity of structure, function, and expression of the 45- to 50-kDa membrane protein cluster of M. synoviae, and they suggest that all members of the cluster may be involved in adhesion.

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Selected References

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