Protein III (PIII) is a highly conserved, antigenically stable gonococcal outer membrane protein that is closely associated with the major outer membrane protein, protein I (PI). We have previously reported the cloning of the PIII gene. This gene was inserted into the Eco RI site of the runaway plasmid pMOB45. The beta-lactamase (beta la) Bam HI restriction fragment from the gonococcal plasmid pFA3 was inserted at the Xba I site in the PIII gene. The plasmid construct was Hae III methylated and the PIII/beta la insert was excised with Eco RI and used to transform gonococcal strain F62. One beta la+, ampicillin-resistant transformant was isolated and designated 2D. A Western blot of 2D whole cell lysate was probed with affinity-purified polyclonal PIII antisera. No PIII reactivity was detected. Southern blot analysis was performed on F62 and 2D chromosomal DNA that were cut with Eco RI or Cla I. A PIII DNA probe hybridized with fragments 2.2 kb larger in strain 2D than strain F62. This corresponds to the size of the beta la insert. A beta la-specific probe hybridized with the same 2D restriction fragments as above, but did not react with any F62 fragments, confirming that homologous recombination had occurred. There were minimal phenotypic changes between 2D and its parent strain, F62. Chromosomal DNA from 2D was able to transform gonococcal strains F62, UU1, and Pgh 3-2, rendering these PIII-. 2D and other PIII- transformants can now be used to study the role of PIII in gonococcal physiology, metabolism, membrane structure, and pathogenesis. Moreover, we now have organisms from which we can purify gonococcal proteins without PIII contamination.

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