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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2004 Apr 9;40(3):231-7.

Induction of opsonic antibodies to the gamma-D-glutamic acid capsule of Bacillus anthracis by immunization with a synthetic peptide-carrier protein conjugate.

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Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, 5700 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94609, USA.


The capsule of Bacillus anthracis, a polymer of gamma-D-glutamic acid, functions as a virulence determinant and is a poor immunogen. In this study we show that antibodies reactive with the B. anthracis capsule can be elicited in mice by immunization with a conjugate consisting of a synthetic gamma-D-glutamic acid nonamer peptide (gamma-D-glu9) covalently coupled to keyhole limpet hemocyanin. The serum response to gamma-D-glu9 was comprised primarily of IgG antibodies that recognized an epitope requiring a minimum of four gamma-linked D-glutamic acid residues. Antibodies to (gamma-D-glu9) bound to the surface of encapsulated B. anthracis cells and mediated opsonophagoctosis. These findings suggest that anti-capsular antibodies could mediate the clearance of vegetative B. anthracis cells in vivo. Thus, inclusion of an immunogenic capsular component as well as protective antigen in new anthrax vaccines would generate immune responses targeting both the bacteremic and toxigenic aspects of anthrax infection and thus may increase protective efficacy.

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