Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) outer membrane protein P6 was used as a new protein carrier for NTHi detoxified lipooligosaccharide (dLOS) conjugates due to its conservation and potential to elicit bactericidal antibodies. P6 was covalently conjugated to dLOS of strain 9274 through adipic acid dihydrazide with different ratios of dLOS to P6, which resulted in two conjugate formulations with weight ratios of dLOS to P6 of 3.7 for dLOS-P6 (I) and 1.6 for dLOS-P6 (II). Binding activity of the conjugates was examined by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with mouse monoclonal antibodies specific to LOS and P6 and a rabbit anti-P6 serum. The results showed that the conjugates bound not only to the LOS antibody but also to both P6 antibodies, suggesting that the conjugates retained epitopes of both LOS and P6 antigens. Animal studies revealed that dLOS-P6 (II) induced high levels of anti-LOS and anti-P6 IgGs in mice and rabbits. However, dLOS-P6 (I) induced lower levels of anti-LOS IgGs in mice and rabbits and anti-P6 IgGs in rabbits with no anti-P6 IgGs in mice. In addition, all rabbit, but not mouse, antisera elicited by the conjugates showed bactericidal activity against the homologous strain, and two of them elicited by each conjugate plus Ribi adjuvant showed cross-bactericidal activity against three of five major serotype stains. These data indicate that P6 could serve as an effective carrier for dLOS or other carbohydrate conjugates and that the ratio of carbohydrate to P6 might contribute to immune responses in vivo.
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