Haemophilus influenzae pili were purified, and their physical and serological properties were examined. The solution properties of the pili were determined, and then a purification scheme involving repeated cycles of precipitation and solubilization was developed. The purified pili from one type b isolate (A02) were found to consist of multiple copies of a 25,000 mol wt subunit. Amino-terminal sequence analysis of A02 pili was carried out to 40 amino acid residues, and a remarkable degree of sequence homology was found with E. coli P and mannose-sensitive (MS) pili (27.5 and 25% homology, respectively). Purified A02 pili were found to be highly immunogenic, and serological analysis by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and whole piliated cell agglutination revealed significant cross-reactivity between A02 pilus antiserum and the pili of seven other H. influenzae strains tested (heterologous titers = 2-100% of the homologous titer). Cross-reactivity was also observed between the H. influenzae pili (five of eight strains tested) and the P pili from E. coli strains HU849 and 3669; no cross-reactivity was detected with MS pili from E. coli strain H10407 and C94. The structural similarities between H. influenzae and E. coli P and MS pili suggest a common gene ancestry.

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