Genomic analysis of the Chlamydiaceae has revealed a multigene family encoding large, putatively autotransported polymorphic membrane proteins (Pmps) with nine members in the sexually transmitted pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis. While various pathogenesis-related functions are emerging for the Pmps, observed genotypic and phenotypic variation among several chlamydial Pmps in various Chlamydia species has led us to hypothesize that the pmp gene repertoire is the basis of a previously undetected mechanism of antigenic variation. To test this hypothesis, we chose to examine the serologic response of C. trachomatis-infected patients to each Pmp subtype. Immune serum samples were collected from four populations of patients with confirmed C. trachomatis genital infection: 40 women with pelvic inflammatory disease from Pittsburgh, PA; 27 and 34 adolescent/young females from Oakland, CA, and Little Rock, AR, respectively; and 58 adult male patients from Baltimore, MD. The Pmp-specific antibody response was obtained using immunoblot analysis against each of the nine recombinantly expressed Pmps and quantified by densitometry. Our results show that nearly all C. trachomatis-infected patients mount a strong serologic response against individual or multiple Pmp subtypes and that the antibody specificity profile varies between patients. Moreover, our analysis reveals differences in the strengths and specificities of the Pmp subtype-specific antibody reactivity relating to gender and clinical outcome. Overall, our results indicate that the Pmps elicit various serologic responses in C. trachomatis-infected patients and are consistent with the pmp gene family being the basis of a mechanism of antigenic variation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases