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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1990;590:370-80.

Antigenic structure of Coxiella burnetii. A comparison of lipopolysaccharide and protein antigens as vaccines against Q fever.

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United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Department of Intracellular Pathogens, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland 21701-5011.


The antigenic structure of Coxiella burnetii is being investigated by identifying both external and internal cellular epitopes of the morphologic cell types. Both the phase I lipopolysaccharide (LPSI) and several surface proteins are candidates for the development of subunit multivalent vaccines. The protective efficacy of purified LPSI was demonstrated in A/J mice. The purified LPSI preparations contained residual peptides detected by amino acid analysis. Therefore, the protection afforded by LPSI may be, in part, due to the presence of peptides. The purification of proteins free of LPSI must be accomplished before the protective efficacy of proteins or peptides can be established. We have identified three proteins that are both antigenic and immunogenic, as indicated by either enzyme immunoassay, radioimmunoprecipitation, immunoblot assay, or lymphocyte transformation. A 62-kDa protein antigen encoded by the htpB gene of C. burnetii was analyzed for immunogenicity. The purified protein antigen was immunogenic, as it elicited specific antibodies and performed as recall antigen in lymphocyte stimulation assays. The antigen was not detected on the surface of phase I cells but was highly represented on the surface of phase II cells. Therefore, the protein may not be a good candidate for vaccine development. The diagnostic utility of the 62-kDa protein antigen lies in the fact that convalescent and chronic Q fever sera from human patients reacted with the antigen, whereas acute sera did not. Although the 62-kDa protein is a "common antigen," specific peptide-based diagnostic reagents may be useful in the detection of Q fever disease progression. A major surface protein (P1) of roughly 29.5 kDa was purified from the phase I Nine Mile (clone 7) strain. No LPSI was detected in the P1 preparation by three different LPSI monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies prepared against P1 were effective in localizing the protein on the cell surface, in the cell wall, and associated with the peptidoglycan of large cells of C. burnetii. Small, pressure-resistant cells did not contain P1. Mice immunized with two 25-micrograms injections of LPSI produced antibodies against LPSI and phase I whole cells. No antibody was detected against phase II whole cells. Immunization with P1 induced antibody against the LPSI fraction and phase I and phase II whole cells. P1 was more effective than LPSI in reducing the number of infectious C. burnetii in the spleens of challenged mice. The gene encoding another protein (P2) recognized by P1 monoclonal antibodies was cloned and sequenced.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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