Chemical, physical, and immunological properties of the envelope antigen of Yersinia pestis strains have been investigated. The antigen consists of two components with isoelectric points (pI) of 4.6 and 4.8. One component (pI 4.6) is a protein bound to a small carbohydrate moiety identified as an oligomeric galactan; the other component (pI 4.8) is a simple protein. These two components are antigenically identical. In buffered solution, the antigen exists as aggregates of molecular weights larger than 300,000. The aggregates dissociate into a variety of smaller molecular weight forms depending on the nature of the treatment for dissociation. Each aggregate can be further dissociated into a single antigenic subunit fraction containing protein and glycoprotein species with molecular weights in the range from 15,000 to 17,000. The subunits can be obtained by a dissociation treatment with 0.1% mercaptoethanol in 0.25% sodium dodecyl sulfate at 95 C for 5 min. The subunits will readily reaggregate into a variety of larger molecular weight forms on the removal of dodecyl sulfate
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