The cell wall and outer structures of bacteria were investigated. The 24-kDa outer protein from two strains was purified with an SDS–PAGE preparative continuous-elution electrophoresis cell. The protein was further characterised by SDS–PAGE and immunoblotting, and the immunological properties were investigated by ELISA. Localisation on the bacterial surface was investigated by immuno-electron-microscopy with a polyclonal antiserum raised against the purified protein. A triple-laminar cell wall typical of gram-negative bacteria, close cellular contact between bacterial cells and outer blebs were seen on thin sections. An additional high mol. wt band of 165 kDa was seen when not treated by heating to 100°C. A high density fibrilla-like material was detected on the bacterial cell and in the environment by negative staining and immuno-electron-microscopy with antisera specific for the 24-kDa protein. The surface localisation of the 24-kDa protein was confirmed by an ELISA technique with the specific antiserum and whole bacterial cells as antigen. The presence of antibodies to the 24-kDa protein was demonstrated in antisera to 13 strains of , indicating antigenic identity or within-species cross-reactivity. Low titres of antibodies to this protein were also detected in 19 antisera raised against different strains of gram-negative bacteria, indicating cross-reactivity with other species. Antibody response to the 24-kDa protein in rabbits immunised subcutaneously with live bacteria resulted in a secondary IgG response. Of 28 sera from patients with culture-verified chancroid, 26 manifested high titres of IgG antibodies to the 24-kDa protein, thus indicating the involvement of this antigen in the disease process in man.


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