Pilins composed of the alpha or beta pilins of Moraxella bovis strain Epp63 were purified, subjected to chemical or enzymatic cleavage, and the resulting fragments sequenced by automated Edman degradation. alpha Pilin was found to be a 155-amino-acid polypeptide with a single intramolecular disulfide bridge. The beta pilin amino acid sequence substantiated the previously reported structure derived from the beta pilin gene DNA sequence, and indicated that the alpha and beta pilins of this strain are approximately 70% homologous. DNA hybridization studies of genomic DNA from the alpha- and beta-piliated variants of strain Epp63 indicated that the expression of the two pilin types was governed by an oscillating mechanism of chromosomal rearrangement. The alpha and beta pili were evaluated serologically and found to exhibit approximately 50% shared antigenicity, indicating that regions of conserved and heterologous sequence specify both type-specific and crossreacting epitopes. The pathogenicity of the alpha- and beta-piliated variants was studied by ocular inoculation of calves eyes; beta-piliated organisms were significantly more infectious than alpha-piliated organisms, indicating that beta pili confer, or are associated with, a relative advantage during the first stages of ocular infection. Preliminary analysis of other M. bovis strains suggests that each strain produces two types of pilin, and that this property may be characteristic of the species.

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