The antigenic structure of gonococcal pilin, strain MS11 (Tr), was investigated by assaying the binding of antisera engendered by intact pili from strains MS11 and R10 and their two major cyanogen bromide-generated fragments, CNBr-2 (residues 9-92) and CNBr-2 (residues 93-159), to synthetic peptides corresponding to the amino acid sequence of MS11 pilin. Four peptides were synthesized corresponding to regions of sequence variation between MS11 and R10 gonococcal pilin. Antisera against the homologous pilus filament and against its CNBr-3 fragment bind peptides equivalent to residues 121-134 and 135-151, which comprise the 30 amino acid disulfide loop near the carboxyl terminus of the protein. Heterologous pili antisera did not bind these peptides. Absorption studies proved that each peptide contained an independent, strain-specific epitope. Synthetic peptides corresponding to regions of identical sequence between MS11 and R10 pilin were used in similar binding experiments to localize a weakly immunogenic, common determinant between residues 48 and 60. less than 15% of the antibodies raised against intact pili were directed at this site. Antisera raised against MS11 or R10 CNBr-2 bind a separate peptide, residues 69-80. This region is immunogenic only as a fragment, not in the intact pilus filament.

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