Molecular analysis of the serotyping antigens of Neisseria meningitidis.
Feavers IM., Suker J., McKenna AJ., Heath AB., Maiden MC.
Molecular approaches to the rapid analysis of the serotyping antigens of Neisseria meningitidis, the class 2 and 3 outer membrane proteins (OMPs), were developed, evaluated, and used to study 12 antigenic variants of these proteins. A primer set for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the genes encoding these antigens was devised. Low-stringency amplification of meningococcal chromosomal DNA with this primer set resulted in the amplification of two products from each strain, whereas at higher stringencies only one product was amplified in most strains. Southern hybridization techniques and restriction analyses were used to differentiate the PCR products amplified at high stringencies from strains expressing class 2 or class 3 OMPs; these PCR products were further characterized by the determination of their nucleotide sequences, confirming that they represented the amplified class 2 and class 3 OMP genes. Analyses of these and other nucleotide sequences enabled the construction of a phenogram illustrating the interrelationships between Neisseria OMP genes. The comparative analysis of deduced amino acid sequences revealed conserved and variable regions of the proteins; the latter probably correspond to surface loops on the protein and hence are potentially exposed to the immune system. Further analyses of the primary structures of these related porins from Neisseria species enabled construction of models of the secondary structure of these antigens and comparison of these models with those previously published. The methods reported in the present work are rapid reproducible procedures for the analysis of antigenic variants of these proteins.