The interaction in vitro between human granulocytes and meningococci in the presence of sera from volunteers immunized by Gotschlich et al. with purified group A and group C meningococcal polysaccharides was studied. Phagocytosis of meningococci did not occur in the presence of preimmunization sera. In all volunteers tested, group-specific opsonins were detected in groups A and C polysaccharide antisera. Opsonic activity appeared within 1 wk after immunization and persisted for at least 14 months. Titers of opsonic activity ranged from 1:20 to 1:320; highest titers were noted in 2–4 wk antisera. Meningococcal opsonins were detected in both 19S and 7S immunoglobulins. Opsonic activity in low-titer antisera depended on heat-labile factors present in both normal and immune sera, whereas phagocytosis was observed in the presence of heat-inactivated high-titer antisera. Phagocytosis of group A meningococci in the presence of certain group A polysaccharide antisera was inhibited by N-acetyl mannosamine, but not by mannose, mannosamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, N-acetyl galactosamine, or N-acetyl neuraminic acid. Absorption studies with sera from patients with natural meningococcal infections revealed that these polysaccharides are the major antiphagocytic determinants for group A and group C meningococci. These studies are consistent with previous reports suggesting that immunization with group A and group C polysaccharides may well provide group-specific protection against meningococcal infections.

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