The opc gene from Neisseria meningitidis was cloned into the pRSETA vector, and recombinant protein was expressed at high levels in Escherichia coli. The protein was readily purified by affinity chromatography and used for immunization with conventional Al(OH)3 adjuvant or after incorporation into liposomes and Zwittergent micelles. The resulting sera were analyzed for their ability to recognize purified recombinant protein and “native” protein in an enzyme immunoassay with outer membranes and by whole-cell immunofluorescence. Immunization with Al(OH)3 induced high levels of antibodies which reacted with the purified protein but did not recognize whole cells. In contrast, liposomes and micelles induced antibodies which reacted with the native protein in whole cells. The addition of monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA) to either liposomes or micelle preparations increased the magnitude of the immune response and induced a wider range of immunoglobulin subclasses. This was associated with the ability of the sera to induce complement-mediated killing of the homologous strain. The most effective bactericidal activity was observed with Opc protein incorporated into liposomes containing MPLA. The magnitude of the bactericidal effect was strongly influenced by the level of expression of the Opc protein and was abolished by limited variation in the sequence of the protein expressed by heterologous strains
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