A panel of monoclonal antibodies (MAb) was generated against Chlamydia trachomatis serovar B, an etiologic agent of blinding trachoma. The specificities of MAb were determined by dot blot assay by using viable elementary bodies of 13 C. trachomatis serovars and two C. psittaci strains. The dot blot assay was used to identify those antigens that were unique and immunoaccessible on the chlamydial surface. MAb were identified that recognized bi-specific (serovars B and Ba) or subspecies-specific (various B complex serovars) surface-exposed antigenic determinants that were either resistant or sensitive to heat denaturation (56 degrees C, 30 min). All of the MAb recognized the major outer membrane protein as determined by either immunoblotting or radioimmunoprecipitation. MAb specific for immunoaccessible major outer membrane protein epitopes protected mice from toxic death after i.v. injection of B serovar elementary bodies and neutralized the infectivity of the organism for monkey eyes. In contrast, MAb reactive against non-immunoaccessible subspecies- or species-specific major outer membrane protein epitopes or against an immunoaccessible genus-specific epitope located on chlamydial lipopolysaccharide did not protect mice from toxic death or neutralize infectivity of the parasite for monkey eyes. These data suggest that those major outer membrane protein antigenic determinants that are serovar or serogroup specific and are accessible to antibody on the chlamydial cell surface may be useful as a recombinant subunit vaccine for trachoma.

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