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J Biotechnol. 1999 Aug 20;73(2-3):83-90.

Candidate vaccine antigens and genes in Pasteurella multocida.

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Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.


Pasteurella multocida is the causative agent of fowl cholera and other diseases of production animals. Isolates are classified into five groups based on capsular antigens and into 16 serotypes based on LPS antigens. Strains causing fowl cholera are most frequently designated A:1, A:3 or A:4. Whole cell bacterins can provide some degree of protection, but only against the homologous LPS serotype. There is good evidence that cross-protective antigens are expressed only under in vivo conditions. Empirically derived, live, attenuated vaccines can protect against heterologous serotypes, but because the basis for attenuation is undefined, reversion to virulence is not uncommon. Work in our laboratory is aimed at using a variety of approaches to identify potential protective antigens or virulence genes to be used as candidates for attenuating mutations or as the basis for vaccine antigen delivery systems. The gene encoding an outer membrane protein, Oma87, which is a homologue of the D15 protective antigen of Haemophilus influenzae, was cloned and sequenced. Rabbit antiserum prepared against recombinant Oma87 could passively protect mice against infection. Type 4 fimbriae form the basis of vaccines against ovine footrot and bovine keratoconjunctivitis. We have identified type 4 fimbriae on the surface of P. multocida, purified the fimbrial subunit protein, PtfA, and determined its N-terminal amino acid sequence. Subsequent cloning of the ptfA gene and its inactivation will now be used to assess the importance of type 4 fimbriae in virulence. There has long been anecdotal evidence for the importance of capsule in virulence, but unequivocal genetic evidence for such a role is lacking. We have cloned and characterised the capsule biosynthetic locus in P. multocida A:1 and identified four bex genes involved in capsule transport and genes encoding enzymes involved in the biosynthesis and transfer of the N-acetyl glucosamine and glucuronic acid components of the capsule. It has been suggested that the low concentration of available iron in vivo acts as an environmental cue for expression of cross-protective antigens. Accordingly, we have cloned and characterised the gene encoding transferrin binding protein, Tbpl, so that its role in immunity and virulence can be investigated. Although P. multocida is not normally considered haemolytic, we have observed haemolysis under anaerobic conditions. Standard library construction and screening resulted in the identification of the mesA gene which encodes an esterase enzyme resulting in a haemolytic phenotype under anaerobic conditions. Virulence studies with mesA- mutants were performed to assess its role in pathogenesis. Using a promoterless phoA gene vector system, the cloning of proteins homologous to known surface proteins of other species as well as proteins unique to P. multocida, allowing their potential as vaccine components to be assessed.

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