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Infect Immun. 2002 Jul;70(7):3707-13.

Effect of O acetylation of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A capsular polysaccharide on development of functional immune responses.

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  • 1Division of Bacterial, Parasitic and Allergenic Products, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The importance of O-acetyl groups to the immunogenicity of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A polysaccharide (PS) was examined in studies using human sera and mouse immunization. In 17 of 18 postimmunization human sera, inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay indicated that the majority of antibodies binding to serogroup A PS were specific for epitopes involving O-acetyl groups. Studies with mice also showed an essential role for O-acetyl groups, where serum bactericidal titers following immunization with de-O-acetylated (de-O-Ac) conjugate vaccine were at least 32-fold lower than those following immunization with O-Ac PS-conjugate vaccine and 4-fold lower than those following immunization with native capsular PS. Inhibition studies using native and de-O-Ac PS confirmed the specificity of murine antibodies to native PS. The dramatic reduction in immunogenicity associated with removal of O-acetyl groups indicates that O acetylation is essential to the immunogenic epitopes of serogroup A PS. Since levels of bactericidal antibodies are correlated with protection against disease, O-acetyl groups appear to be important in protection.

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