Lipooligosaccharides (LOS) of the eight immunotypes found in serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis were purified from their prototype strains grown in tryptic soy broth. Rabbit antisera to these LOS were prepared. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by silver staining revealed that most of the LOS antigens contained two major components; the larger components had apparent molecular weights (Mrs) in the range of 4,800 +/- 300, and the smaller components had an apparent Mr of 4,300. Immunoblot analysis showed that the larger major component of an LOS, in general, was much more immunogenic because the rabbits produced antibodies exclusively or primarily to this component even though the LOS immunogen contained both large and small major components. Antibodies to the smaller 4,300-Mr components were infrequently observed but, when present, were cross-reactive with the same-size components of all heterologous LOS. Hence, the immunotype epitopes reside in the larger major components of all immunotypes except type 5, in which a smaller major component having an apparent Mr of 4,400 carries the epitope. Rabbit antisera to types 1, 5, and 6 were immunotype specific. Antisera to other types had cross-reactivities with some heterologous LOS, and the larger components, but not the 4,300-Mr components, of the LOS were primarily responsible for the cross-reactivities. This finding suggests that the larger components of cross-reactive LOS have a similar structure in addition to their type-specific sugar moieties. The LOS of N. meningitidis M986, a strain used for the production of a serotype 2a vaccine, was found to contain the immunotype 7 epitope
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