Production of monoclonal antibodies against Rickettsia massiliae and their use in antigenic and epidemiological studies

J Clin Microbiol. 1997 Jul;35(7):1715-21. doi: 10.1128/jcm.35.7.1715-1721.1997.


Rickettsiae are gram-negative, obligate intracellular bacteria which have historically been divided into three groups: the typhus group, the scrub typhus group, and the spotted fever group (SFG). Recently, several new SFG rickettsiae have been characterized, and most of these species are associated with ticks and have, as yet, no known pathogenicity toward humans. Rickettsia massiliae, which is widely distributed in Europe and Africa, is one such rickettsia. In order to investigate the antigenic relationships between R. massiliae and other rickettsial species and to develop a more convenient methodology for identifying R. massiliae, we produced monoclonal antibodies against the type strain (Mtu1T) of R. massiliae by fusing immunized splenocytes with SP2/0-Ag14 myeloma cells. A panel of 16 representatives were selected from the 163 positive hybridomas identified on initial screening, and their secreted monoclonal antibodies were further characterized. The reactivities of these 16 monoclonal antibodies with a large panel of rickettsial species were assessed by the microimmunofluorescence assay. All species of the SFG rickettsiae reacted with the monoclonal antibodies directed against epitopes on lipopolysaccharide, which is the common antigen among the SFG rickettsiae. Some closely related species of the SFG, such as Bar29, "R. aeschlimanni," and R. rhipicephali, showed strong cross-reactivities with the monoclonal antibodies directed against epitopes on the two major high-molecular-mass heat-labile proteins (106 and 120 kDa). In addition, species-specific monoclonal antibodies demonstrated that R. massiliae is antigenically different from other rickettsial species. Moreover, these species-specific monoclonal antibodies were successfully used for identifying R. massiliae in the ticks collected from southern France, and are therefore potentially useful tools in the identification and investigation of R. massiliae in ticks in large-scale field work.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / isolation & purification
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Rickettsia / classification
  • Rickettsia / immunology*
  • Rickettsia Infections / epidemiology
  • Rickettsia Infections / microbiology*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Bacterial