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J Bacteriol. 1987 Nov;169(11):5066-71.

Antigenic variation of Campylobacter flagella.

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Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Victoria, British Columbia.


Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of flagella dissociated from strains of Campylobacter coli and Campylobacter jejuni belonging to the heat-labile serogroup LIO 8 showed that some strains were capable of producing flagellin subunits of two different molecular weights (MrS), 59,500 and 61,500. Immunoelectron microscopy of cultures of the type strain of this serogroup, C. coli VC167, showed the presence of two flagellum filaments of different antigenic specificity. Epitopes on the surface of one of these flagella bound antibodies in LIO 8 typing antiserum, and Western blotting (immunoblotting) and immunoprecipitation showed that the flagellum was composed of flagellin of Mr 61,500. The other flagellum antigenic type did not bind LIO 8 antibodies but did possess serospecific epitopes which bound a second polyclonal antiserum, LAH2. This second antigenic flagellum type was composed of the Mr 59,500 flagellin. Cells producing either of the flagellum antigenic types serotyped as LIO 8, indicating that flagella composed of the Mr 61,500 flagellin do not carry the serological determinants for this serogroup. The ability of C. coli VC167 to produce these flagella of different subunit MrS was shown to represent a bidirectional antigenic variation. When measured in culture medium, the phase 1-to-phase 2 transition occurred at a rate of approximately 2.0 x 10(-5) per cell per generation, and the phase 2-to-phase 1 transition occurred at a rate of 1.2 x 10(-6) per cell per generation.

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