Antigen heterogeneity among isolates of Mycoplasma bovis is generated by high-frequency variation of diverse membrane surface proteins

R. Rosengarten*, A. Behrens, A. Stetefeld, M. Heller, M. Ahrens, K. Sachse, D. Yogev, H. Kirchhoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


The protein and antigen profiles of 11 isolates of Mycoplasma bovis were compared by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and immunoblot analysis of whole organisms. The isolates examined included the type strain PG45 and 10 other filter-cloned strains or purified isolates both from animals without clinical signs and from clinical cases of bovine mastitis, arthritis, or pneumonia. While the overall protein patterns visualized by silver staining were very similar, marked differences in the antigen banding profiles were detected by rabbit antiserum prepared against whole organisms from one of the strains analyzed. This antigenic heterogeneity was shown to be independent of the geographical origin, the type of clinical disease, and the site of isolation and was also observed among serial isolates from a single animal. Antigen profiles were further monitored throughout sequentially subcloned populations of the PG45 strain. This clonal analysis revealed a high-frequency variation in the expression levels of several prominent antigens. All of these variable antigens were defined by detergent-phase fractionation with Triton X-114 as amphiphilic integral membrane proteins. A subset of different-sized membrane proteins was identified by a monoclonal antibody raised against a PG45 subclone expressing a 63- and a 46-kDa variant antigen within that set. The selective susceptibility of these proteins to trypsin treatment of intact organisms and their ability to bind the monoclonal antibody in colony immunoblots demonstrated that they were exposed on the cell surface. In addition, their preferential recognition by serum antibodies from individual cattle with naturally induced M. bovis mastitis or arthritis confirmed that they were major immunogens of this organism. These studies establish that the apparent antigenic heterogeneity among M. bovis isolates reported here does not represent stable phenotypic strain differences generated from accumulated mutational events but reflects distinct expression patterns of diverse, highly variable membrane surface proteins.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5066-5074
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1994


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