SUMMARY: The components of the cell envelopes of O1: K1, O7: K1, O18: K1 and O83: K1 strains were separated on SDS-polyacrylamide gels. Longitudinal slices (50 μm thick) of the gel were incubated with typing sera for O1, O7, O18 and O83, followed by detection of the bound antibodies with I-labelled protein A and autoradiography. The antisera reacted with many cell envelope components of strains both with the homologous O-serotype and heterologous O-serotypes. With O-typing sera cross-reactions with heterologous cells and cells boiled for 2 h were found. Up to 40 serotype-specific bands at regular positions with molecular weights between 12000 and 100 000 were demonstrated. Since these bands were also observed when purified lipopolysaccharide and unabsorbed homologous O-typing sera were used, it was concluded that these bands represented lipopolysaccharide molecules with increasing molecular weight, all of which contained O-antigen specific immunodeterminants. The band patterns were not influenced by the growth conditions of the cells or the various isolation procedures for the cell envelopes. Comparison of various strains serotyped as O18 revealed strain differences with respect to their lipopolysaccharide band patterns. In the case of O21- and O83-serotyped strains lipopolysaccharide cross-reactions, which were detected by agglutination, were analysed in detail using the gel immunoradioassay method. These cross-reactions appeared to be caused by the presence of common determinants on their lipopolysaccharides and polysaccharide-like material. The cross-reacting antibodies could be removed by cross-absorption. It is concluded that the immunological detection of lipopolysaccharides and other components of in gels is an important tool in (1) the control of the specificity of typing antisera, (2) the study of the nature of cross-reacting antigens and (3) the study of the nature and uniformity of the various O-and K-serotypes.


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