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Infect Immun. 1989 Feb; 57(2): 602–608.
PMCID: PMC313139

Neisseria lactamica and Neisseria meningitidis share lipooligosaccharide epitopes but lack common capsular and class 1, 2, and 3 protein epitopes.


Neisseria lactamica, a common human pharyngeal commensal, contributes to acquired immunity to Neisseria meningitidis. To define the surface antigens shared between these two species, we used monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to study 35 N. lactamica strains isolated in various parts of the world for cross-reactivity with meningococcal capsules, outer membrane proteins, and lipooligosaccharides (LOS). No N. lactamica strain reacted significantly with MAbs specific for capsular group A, B, C, Y, or W, and we were unable to extract capsular polysaccharide from them. Only 2 of 33 strains reacted weakly with MAbs against class 2 serotype proteins P2b and P2c. None reacted with MAbs specific for meningococcal class 1 protein P1.2 or P1.16 or class 2/3 serotype protein P2a or P15. Most N. lactamica strains (30 of 35) bound one or more of seven LOS-specific MAbs. Two LOS epitopes, defined by MAbs O6B4 and 3F11, that are commonly found on pathogenic Neisseria species were found on 25 of 35 N. lactamica. Analysis by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and immunoblotting showed that the LOS of N. lactamica are composed of multiple components that are physically and antigenically similar to the LOS of pathogenic Neisseria species. Among four other commensal neisserial species, only Neisseria cinerea shared LOS epitopes defined by MAbs O6B4 and 3F11. Previous studies have shown that pharyngeal colonization with N. lactamica induces bactericidal antibodies against the meningococcus. We postulate that shared N. lactamica and meningococcal LOS epitopes may play an important role in the development of natural immunity to the meningococcus.

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