Rabbits were immunized with immunotype L3,7,9 phosphoethanolamine (PEA) group containing oligosaccharide-tetanus toxoid conjugates both with and without the addition of the adjuvant Quil A. The epitope specificity of the antibodies present in these antisera was analysed in an immunotype L2 and L3,7,9 specific inhibition ELISA using the homologous and heterologous lipopolysaccharide, oligosaccharide and partial dephosphorylated oligosaccharide as inhibitors. Two groups of antisera could be identified. In one group of antisera, at least two antibody populations are present, namely directed against the PEA group containing determinants on immunotype L3,7,9 lipopolysaccharide and against immunotype L2 specific epitopes in which no PEA group is present. In the second group of antisera, one but probably more antibody populations are detected with a similar specificity towards the conserved epitopes of both immunotypes. In general, immunization with the conjugates only resulted in the induction of antibodies against the PEA group containing epitopes on the L3,7,9 lipopolysaccharide (80%). Antibodies directed against the conserved epitopes of both immunotypes are mainly evoked with the conjugates in combination with the adjuvant Quil A (80%). Although these results suggest that the epitope specificity of the antibodies induced depends on the use of Quil A, the influence of genetic factors cannot be excluded. At the moment it is not known whether the differences in epitope specificities are reflected in biological function of these antibodies. However, the induction of antibodies with clearly different epitope specificities after immunization of different rabbits with the same antigen stresses the importance of this kind of analysis when developing a vaccine based on oligosaccharide-protein conjugates. © 1991.
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