Two pyrogenic mitogens, SePE-H and SePE-I, were characterized in Streptococcus equi, the cause of equine strangles. SePE-H and SePE-I have molecular masses of 27.5 and 29.5 kDa, respectively, and each is almost identical to its counterpart in Streptococcus pyogenes M1. Both genes are adjacent to a gene encoding a phage muramidase of 49.7 kDa and are located immediately downstream from a phage genomic sequence almost identical to a similar phage sequence in S. pyogenes M1. Strong mitogenic responses were elicited by both proteins from horse peripheral blood mononuclear cells. However, although both were pyrogenic for rabbits, only SePE-I was pyrogenic in ponies. Convalescent sera contained antibody to each mitogen and horses recovered from strangles or immunized with SePE-I were resistant to the pyrogenic effect of SePE-I. The immunogenicity of SePE-I suggests that it should be included in new generation strangles vaccines. In isolates of S. equi sepe-I and sepe-H were consistently present but they were absent from the closely related Streptococcus zooepidemicus, suggesting that phage mediated transfer was an important event in the formation of the clonal, more virulent, S. equi from its putative S. zooepidemicus ancestor.
Copyright 2002 Academic Press.