Two avirulent mutants of Streptococcus suis capsular type 2 (M2 and M42) were produced from a highly virulent strain. Mutant M2, obtained after serial subcultures of the parent strain in the presence of rabbit anti-capsular type 2 serum, no longer possessed the type-specific capsular antigen, as demonstrated by serotyping methods and immunoelectron microscopy. The Lancefield group D antigen could not be detected on the cell surface of this mutant using the immunogold labelling technique. SDS-PAGE of lysozyme treated cells demonstrated that a 44 kDa protein which was present in the parent strain, was absent in mutant M2. Immunoblotting using rabbit whole cell homologous anti-serum revealed that the protein was strongly immunogenic. Mutant M2 was totally avirulent in mice, and the homologous antiserum completely failed to protect mice against challenge with the parent strain. However, mutant M42, obtained after passages of the parent strain at 42°C, remained capsulated but lacked the same 44 kDa protein as mutant M2. The quantity of sialic acid present in the capsule was similar to that of the parent strain. Despite the presence of antibodies against the capsule, antiserum prepared against M42 only partially protected mice against a challenge with the parent strain. The 44 kDa cell wall protein could act as a virulence factor as well as an important immunogen of S. suis capsular type 2.
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