The immunogenicity of a chimeric T/B cell peptide corresponding to antigenically characterized epitopes of the Chlamydia trachomatis major outer membrane protein (MOMP) was studied in mice to further define its potential use in the development of a subunit vaccine in preventing blinding trachoma in humans. The chimeric peptide, designated A8-VDI, corresponds to a conserved MOMP T helper (Th) cell epitope(s) (A8, residues 106-130) and serovar A VDI (residues 66-80), which contains the serovar-specific neutralizing epitope 71VAGLEK76. Mice immunized with peptide A8-VDI produced high-titered polyclonal IgG antibodies which recognized the VAGLEK-neutralizing epitope. Peptide A8-VDI primed A/J mice to produce high-titered serum-neutralizing antibodies in response to a secondary immunization with intact chlamydial elementary bodies (EBs). Peptide A8-VDI, but not peptide VDI alone, was immunogenic in six different inbred strains of mice disparate at H-2, indicating that the Th cell epitope(s) contained in the A8 portion of the chimera was recognized in the context of multiple major histocompatibility complex (MHC) haplotypes. An unexpected finding of this work was that different inbred strains of mice immunized with the chimeric peptide produced antibodies of differing fine specificities to the VDI portion of the chimera. Some mouse strains produced anti-VDI antibodies that did not recognize the VAGLEK-neutralizing epitope. The ability of mice to respond to the VAGLEK-neutralizing site was not dependent on MHC haplotype since mouse strains of the same H-2 haplotype produced anti-VDI antibodies of differing fine specificity.

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