The H8 protein is a surface-exposed antigen that is found, among members of the Neisseria genus, primarily on pathogenic species. In this study, the surface exposure of H8 was reassessed by four techniques. Results of slide agglutination, indirect fluorescent antibody binding, absorption of sera with whole gonococci, and immune electron microscopy all confirmed the presence of H8 in the outer membrane. The degree to which protein A-gold-labeled monoclonal antibodies bound to H8 was marked, and suggested that this antigen was present in abundant amounts in the outer membrane. Also in this study, the electrophoretic heterogeneity of this common surface antigen was examined. Because H8 stains poorly, electrophoretic mobility was assessed using polyclonal antibodies and a monoclonal antibody that recognizes a common H8 epitope. H8 was analyzed with respect to protein I, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and pilus and opacity phenotypic variation; results confirmed that heterogeneity of Mr was the rule among strains (21 were examined), however, the variability in Mr was independent of protein I or LPS Mr. In one strain (FA1090), the heterogeneity of H8 was examined among 10 piliation/opacity variants; the H8 (and LPS) Mr was identical in all variants; similar data were generated in strains JS3 and JS1. The electrophoretic mobility of H8 was altered in serum-resistant and neutrophil enzyme-resistant gonococci compared to the sensitive gonococci. Some of the unusual electrophoretic migration characteristics of the antigen were also examined. H8 formed a unique mushroom-shaped band in one-dimensional gels; in a two-dimensional electrophoresis system, the antigen migrated aberrantly, very similarly to LPS. Also seen in the two-dimensional electrophoresis profile were multimers of the H8 antigen; in strain JS3 (Mr 23,500), these migrated at 43,600, 86,000, and greater than 150,000. In other strains, the Mr of the multimers differed depending upon the Mr of the monomer. The two-dimensional migration characteristics (as measured by antigenicity) were completely destroyed by proteinase K digestion. Activity of H8 polyclonal antibodies to the antigens in two-dimensional gels was completely removed by adsorption of formalin-fixed whole cells, but was not affected by adsorption with LPS. These electrophoretic characteristics may reflect the close association of some nonprotein constituent, perhaps lipid or carbohydrate or both.

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