Summary: The major outer-membrane protein (MOMP) of is a promising candidate antigen for chlamydial vaccine development. We have sequenced the MOMP genes for a serovar A and a serovar B isolate and have compared these new sequences with those already reported. Intra-serovar changes in the inferred amino acid sequences of the surface-exposed variable segments known to be responsible for binding of neutralizing antibody were observed. Nevertheless, epitope mapping with solid-phase peptides showed that these intra-serovar changes did not affect the binding of serovar- and subspecies-specific, potentially protective antibodies. Variable segment 1 of serovar A contained two adjacent antibody-binding sites, one of which was C-subspecies specific while the other was serovar A specific. Therefore the subspecies binding site for C-complex organisms is in variable segment 1, whilst that for B-complex organisms is in variable segment 4. This work shows that MOMP sequences are relatively stable within the serovar categorization for isolates taken decades apart from different continents. Within a given serovar, however, limited interchange of functionally related amino acids may occur without impairing the binding of serovar-specific antibody.


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