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Microbiol Immunol. 2002;46(3):143-50.

Antigenic relatedness between Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei.

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Laboratory of Immunology, Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok, Thailand.


Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei are causative agents of distinct diseases, namely, melioidosis and glanders, respectively. The two species are very closely related, based on DNA-DNA homology, base sequence of the 16S rRNA, and phenotypic characteristics. Based on the use of polyclonal antisera, B. pseudomallei and B. mallei are also found to be antigenically closely related to one another. We previously reported the production of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against B. pseudomallei antigens; one group was specific for the 200-kDa exopolysaccharide present on the surface of all B. pseudomallei isolates, and the other was specific for the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) structure present on more than 95% of the B. pseudomallei tested. In the present study, we showed that the MAbs against 200-kDa antigen of B. pseudomallei cross-reacted with a component present also in some B. mallei isolates (3/6), but the positive immunoblot reaction was noted below the 200-kDa position. On the other hand, none of the six B. mallei isolates reacted with the MAb specific for B. pseudomallei LPS. It was of interest to observe that only the 3 exopolysaccharide-positive B. mallei isolates reacted with a commercial MAb against B. mallei LPS. The data presented suggest that B. mallei can be classified antigenically into two types based on their reactivities with different MAbs, i.e., the presence or absence of exopolysaccharide and the types of lipopolysaccharide. The heterogeneity of the LPS from these two closely related organisms is most likely related to the differences in its O-polysaccharide side chain.

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