Antibodies to the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Francisella tularensis have been shown to be protective against respiratory tularaemia in mouse models, and we have previously described mouse monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to non-overlapping terminal and internal epitopes of the F. tularensis LPS O-polysaccharide (OAg). In the current study, we used F. tularensis LPS oligosaccharides of defined OAg repeat length as molecular rulers in competition ELISA to demonstrate that the epitope targeted by the terminal OAg-binding mAb FB11 is contained within one tetrasaccharide repeat whereas the epitope targeted by the internal OAg-binding mAb Ab52 spans two tetrasaccharide repeats. Both mAbs conferred survival to BALB/c mice infected intranasally with the F. tularensis type B live vaccine strain and prolonged survival of BALB/c mice infected intranasally with the highly virulent F. tularensis type A strain SchuS4. The protective effects correlated with reduced bacterial burden in mAb-treated infected mice. These results indicate that an oligosaccharide with two OAg tetrasaccharide repeats covers both terminal and internal protective OAg epitopes, which may inform the design of vaccines for tularaemia. Furthermore, the FB11 and Ab52 mAbs could serve as reporters to monitor the response of vaccine recipients to protective B-cell epitopes of F. tularensis OAg.
© 2012 The Authors. Immunology © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.