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  Pharmaceutical Patents  

 

Title:  Surface antigen
United States Patent: 
8,034,358
Issued: 
October 11, 2011

Inventors: 
Peak; Ian Richard Anselm (St. Lucia, AU), Jennings; Michael Paul (Carina, AU), Moxon; E. Richard (Oxfordshire, GB)
A
ssignee:  The University of Queesland (St. Lucia, AT)
Appl. No.: 
11/776,709
Filed: 
July 12, 2007


 

Outsourcing Guide


Abstract

The invention provides a novel surface polypeptide from Neisseria meningitidis as well as nucleic acid and nucleic acid sequence homologues encoding this protein. Pharmaceutical compositions containing the polypeptide and nucleic acids of the invention are also disclosed as well as methods useful in the treatment, prevention and diagnosis of N. meningitidis infection.

Description of the Invention

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present inventors have discovered a new gene which is present in all tested strains of N. meningitidis and which encodes a novel polypeptide having a predicted molecular weight of about 62 kDa. Based upon its sequence characteristics and homologies, this polypeptide is predicted to be an adhesin and this, together with experimental data suggests that it constitutes a surface protein which may be useful for the production of therapeutic and/or prophylactic vaccines against N. meningitides as described hereinafter.

Accordingly, in one aspect of the invention, there is provided an isolated polypeptide or fragment thereof, or variant or derivative of these, said polypeptide selected from the group consisting of:-- (a) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 2; (b) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 5; (c) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 7; (d) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 9; (e) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 11; (f) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 13; (g) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 15; (h) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 17; (i) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 19; and (j) a polypeptide according to SEQ ID NO 21.

Preferably, said polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative elicits an immune response against one or more members selected from the group consisting of:-- (i) N. meningitidis; (ii) said polypeptide; (iii) said fragment; (iv) said variant; and (v) said derivative;

According to another aspect, the invention provides an isolated nucleic acid sequence encoding a polypeptide or fragment thereof, or variant or derivative of said fragment or polypeptide, according to the first-mentioned aspect. Suitably, said sequence is selected from the group consisting of:-- (1) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 1; (2) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 3; (3) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 4; (4) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 6; (5) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 8; (6) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 10; (7) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 12; (8) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 14; (9) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 16; (10) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 18; (11) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO 20; (12) a nucleotide sequence fragment of any one of SEQ ID NOS 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20; and (13) a nucleotide sequence homologue of any of the foregoing sequences

Preferably, said sequences encode a product that elicits an immune response against one or more members selected from the group consisting of:-- (i) N. meningitidis; (ii) said polypeptide of the first-mentioned aspect; (iii) said fragment of said first-mentioned aspect; (iv) said variant of said first-mentioned aspect; and (v) said derivative of said first-mentioned aspect.

In yet another aspect, the invention resides in an expression vector comprising a nucleic acid sequence according to the second-mentioned aspect wherein said sequence is operably linked to transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid.

In a further aspect, the invention provides a host cell containing an expression vector according to the third-mentioned aspect.

In yet a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of producing a recombinant polypeptide according to the first-mentioned aspect, said method comprising the steps of:-- (A) culturing a host cell containing an expression vector according to the third-mentioned aspect such that said recombinant polypeptide is expressed from said nucleic acid; and (B) isolating said recombinant polypeptide.

In a still further aspect, the invention provides an antibody or antibody fragment that binds to one or more members selected from the group consisting of:-- (1) N. meningitidis; (2) said polypeptide of the first-mentioned aspect; (3) said fragment of the first-mentioned aspect; (4) said variant of the first-mentioned aspect; and (5) said derivative of the first-mentioned aspect.

In yet another aspect, the invention provides a method of detecting N. meningitidis in a biological sample suspected of containing same, said method comprising the steps of:-- (A) isolating the biological sample from a patient; (B) mixing the above-mentioned antibody or antibody fragment with the biological sample to form a mixture; and (C) detecting specifically bound antibody or bound antibody fragment in the mixture which indicates the presence of N. meningitidis.

According to a further aspect, there is provided a method of detecting N. meningitidis bacteria in a biological sample suspected of containing said bacteria, said method comprising the steps of:-- (I) isolating the biological sample from a patient; (II) detecting a nucleic acid sequence according to the second-mentioned aspect in said sample which indicates the presence of said bacteria.

The invention further contemplates a method for diagnosing infection of patients by N. meningitidis, said method comprising the steps of:-- (1) contacting a biological sample from a patient with a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative of the invention; and (2) determining the presence or absence of a complex between said polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative and N. meningitidis-specific antibodies in said sample, wherein the presence of said complex is indicative of said infection.

The invention also extends to the use of the polypeptide according to the first-mentioned aspect, the use of the nucleic acids according to the second-mentioned aspect or the use of the antibody or antibody fragment mentioned above in a kit for detecting N. meningitidis bacteria in a biological sample.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a pharmaceutical composition comprising an isolated polypeptide or fragment thereof, or a variant or derivative of these, according to the first mentioned aspect.

Preferably, said pharmaceutical composition is a vaccine.

In yet a further aspect, the invention provides a method of preventing infection of a patient by N. meningitidis, comprising the step of administrating a pharmaceutically effective amount of the above-mentioned vaccine.

In a further aspect, the invention provides a method of identifying an immunoreactive fragment of a polypeptide, variant or derivatives according to the first mentioned aspect, comprising the steps of:-- (a) producing a fragment of said polypeptide, variant or derivative; (b) administering said fragment to a mammal; and (c) detecting an immune response in said mammal which response includes production of elements which specifically bind N. meningitidis and/or said polypeptide, variant or derivative, and/or a protective effect against N. meningitidis infection.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Throughout this specification and the appendant claims, unless the context requires otherwise, the words "comprise", "comprises" and "comprising" will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated integer or group of integers but not the exclusion of any other integer or group of integers.

Polypeptide Sequences

The present invention provides an isolated polypeptide according to SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21, or fragment respectively thereof, or variant or derivative of these. In a preferred embodiment, the polypeptide, fragments, variants and derivatives of the invention elicit an immune response against any one member selected from the group consisting of N. meningitidis, said polypeptide, said fragment, said variant and said derivative.

SEQ ID NO 2 corresponds to the novel about 62 kDa surface polypeptide of the hiaNm gene obtained from N. meningitidis strain MC58, as described more fully hereinafter. SEQ ID NOS 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, and 21 correspond to homologous polypeptides deduced from nucleotide sequences obtained from N. meningitidis strains BZ10, BZ198, EG327, EG329, H15, H38, H41, P20, and PMC21, respectively.

For the purposes of this invention, the phrase "elicit(s) an immune response" refers to the ability of the aforementioned polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative to produce an immune response in a mammal to which it is administered, wherein the response includes the production of elements which specifically bind N. meningitidis and/or said polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative, and/or which provide a protective effect against N. meningitidis infection.

By "isolated" is meant material that is substantially or essentially free from components that normally accompany it in its native state.

By "polypeptide" is meant a long chain peptide including a protein.

As used herein, the term "fragment" includes deletion mutants and small peptides, for example of at least 6, preferably at least 10 and more preferably at least 20 amino acids in length, which comprise antigenic determinants or epitopes. Several such fragments may be joined together. Peptides of this type may be obtained through the application of standard recombinant nucleic acid techniques or synthesized using conventional liquid or solid phase synthesis techniques. For example, reference may be made to solution synthesis or solid phase synthesis as described, for example, in Chapter 9 entitled "Peptide Synthesis" by Atherton and Shephard which is included in a publication entitled "Synthetic Vaccines" edited by Nicholson and published by Blackwell Scientific Publications. Alternatively, peptides can be produced by digestion of a polypeptide of the invention with proteinases such as endoLys-C, endoArg-C, endoGlu-C and staphylococcins V8-protease. The digested fragments can be purified by, for example, high performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) techniques.

The term "variant" refers to polypeptides in which one or more amino acids halve been replaced by different amino acids. It is well understood in the art that some amino acids may be changed to others with broadly similar properties without changing the nature of the activity of the polypeptide (conservative substitutions). Exemplary conservative substitutions in the polypeptide may be made according to the following table -- see Original Patent.

Substantial changes in function are made by selecting substitutions that are less conservative than those shown in TABLE 1 (see Original Patent). Other replacements would be non-conservative substitutions and relatively fewer of these may be tolerated. Generally, the substitutions which are likely to produce the greatest changes in a polypeptide's properties are those in which (a) a hydrophilic residue (e.g., Ser or Thr) is substituted for, or by, a hydrophobic residue (e.g., Ala, Leu, Ile, Phe or Val); (b) a cysteine or proline is substituted for, or by, any other residue; (c) a residue having an electropositive side chain (e.g., Arg, His or Lys) is substituted for, or by, an electronegative residue (e.g., Glu or Asp) or (d) a residue having a bulky side chain (e.g., Phe or Trp) is substituted for, or by, one having a smaller side chain (e.g., Ala, Ser) or no side chain (e.g., Gly).

In general, variants will be at least 75% homologous, more suitably at least 80%, preferably at least 85%, and most preferably at least 90% homologous to the basic sequences as for example shown in SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21. Homology is defined as the percentage number of amino acids that are identical or constitute conservative substitutions as defined in Table 1. Homology may be determined using sequence comparison programs such as GAP (Deveraux et al. 1984, Nucleic Acids Research 12, 387-395) which is incorporated herein by reference. In this way sequences of a similar or substantially different length to those cited herein may be compared by insertion of gaps into the alignment, such gaps being determined, for example, by the comparison algorithm used by GAP. What constitutes suitable variants may be determined by conventional techniques. For example, nucleic acids encoding polypeptides according to SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 can be mutated using either random mutagenesis for example using transposon mutagenesis, or site-directed mutagenesis. The resultant DNA fragments are then cloned into suitable expression hosts such as E. coli using conventional technology and clones that retain the desired activity are detected. Where the clones have been derived using random mutagenesis techniques, positive clones would have to be sequenced in order to detect the mutation. The term "variant" also includes naturally occurring allelic variants.

By "derivative" is meant a polypeptide that has been derived from the basic sequence by modification, for example by conjugation or complexing with other chemical moieties or by post-translational modification techniques as would be understood in the art. Such derivatives include amino acid deletions and/or additions to polypeptides according to SEQ ID NOS 2, 51 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 or variants thereof wherein said derivatives retain activity eliciting an immune response. "Additions" of amino acids may include fusion of the polypeptides or variants thereof with other polypeptides or proteins. In this regard, it will be appreciated that the polypeptides or variants of the invention may be incorporated into larger polypeptides, and such larger polypeptides may also be expected to retain immunological activity against, for example, N. meningitidis. The polypeptides as described above may be fused to a further protein, for example, which is not derived from N. meningitidis. The other protein may, by way of example, assist in the purification of the protein. For instance a polyhistidine tag, or a maltose binding protein may be used in this respect as described in more detail below. Alternatively, it may produce an immune response, which is effective against N. meningitidis, or it may produce an immune response against another pathogen. Other possible fusion proteins are those which produce an immunomodulatory response. Particular examples of such proteins include Protein A or glutathione S-transferase (GST). In addition, the polypeptide may be fused to an oligosaccharide based vaccine component where it acts as a carrier protein.

Other derivatives contemplated by the invention include, but are not limited to, modification to side chains, incorporation of unnatural amino acids and/or their derivatives during peptide, polypeptide or protein synthesis and the use of crosslinkers and other methods which impose conformational constraints on the polypeptides, fragments and variants of the invention.

Examples of side chain modifications contemplated by the present invention include modifications of amino groups such as by acylation with acetic anhydride; acylation of amino groups with succinic anhydride and tetrahydrophthalic anhydride; amidination with methylacetimidate; carbamoylation of amino groups with cyanate; pyridoxylation of lysine with pyridoxal-5-phosphate followed by reduction with NaBH.sub.4; reductive alkylation by reaction with an aldehyde followed by reduction with NaBH.sub.4; and trinitrobenzylation of amino groups with 2, 4, 6-trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid (TNBS).

The carboxyl group may be modified by carbodiimide activation via O-acylisourea formation followed by subsequent derivitization, by way of example, to a corresponding amide.

The guanidine group of arginine residues may be modified by formation of heterocyclic condensation products with reagents such as 2,3-butanedione, phenylglyoxal and glyoxal.

Sulphydryl groups may be modified by methods such as performic acid oxidation to cysteic acid; formation of mercurial derivatives using 4-chloromercuriphenylsulphonic acid, 4-chloromercuribenzoate; 2-chloromercuri-4-nitrophenol, phenylmercury chloride, and other mercurials; formation of a mixed disulphides with other thiol compounds; reaction with maleimide, maleic anhydride or other substituted maleimide; carboxymethylation with iodoacetic acid or iodoacetamide; and carbamoylation with cyanate at alkaline pH.

Tryptophan residues may be modified, for example, by alkylation of the indole ring with 2-hydroxy-5-nitrobenzyl bromide or sulphonyl halides or by oxidation with N-bromosuccinimide.

Tyrosine residues may be modified by nitration with tetranitromethane to form a 3-nitrotyrosine derivative.

The imidazole ring of a histidine residue may be modified by N-carbethoxylation withdiethylpyrocarbonate or by alkylation with iodoacetic acid derivatives.

Examples of incorporating unnatural amino acids and derivatives during peptide synthesis include but are not limited to, use of 4-amino butyric acid, 6-aminohexanoic acid, 4-amino-3-hydroxy-5-phenylpentanoic acid, 4-amino-3-hydroxy-6-methylheptanoic acid, t-butylglycine, norleucine, norvaline, phenylglycine, ornithine, sarcosine, 2-thienyl alanine and/or D-isomers of amino acids. A list of unnatural amino acids contemplated by the present invention is shown in TABLE 2 (see Original Patent).

The invention also contemplates covalently modifying a polypeptide, fragment or variant of the invention with dinitrophenol, in order to render it immunogenic in humans

Preferably the invention comprises a polypeptide selected from any one of the polypeptides according to SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21.

Polypeptides of the inventions may be prepared by any suitable procedure known to those of skill in the art. For example, the polypeptides may be prepared by a procedure including the steps of:

(a) preparing a recombinant nucleic acid containing a nucleotide sequence encoding a polypeptide according to any one of SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21, or fragment thereof, or variant or derivative of these, which nucleotide sequence is operably linked to transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid;

(b) transfecting or transforming a suitable host cell with the recombinant nucleic acid;

(c) culturing the host cell to express recombinant polypeptide from said recombinant nucleic acid; and

(d) isolating the recombinant polypeptide.

Suitably said nucleotide sequence is selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NOS 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20.

By "recombinant polypeptide" is meant a polypeptide made using recombinant techniques, i.e., through the expression of a recombinant nucleic acid.

The term "recombinant nucleic acid" as used herein refers to nucleic acid formed in vitro by the manipulation of nucleic acid into a form not normally found in nature. In this regard, the recombinant nucleic acid preferably comprises an expression vector that may be either a self-replicating extra-chromosomal vector such as a plasmid, or a vector that integrates into a host genome. Generally, such expression vectors include transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid operably linked to the said nucleotide sequence.

By "operably linked" is meant that the transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid is positioned relative to the nucleotide sequence encoding the said polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative in such a manner that such transcription is initiatable. The transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid will generally be appropriate for the host cell used for expression. Numerous types of appropriate expression vectors and suitable regulatory sequences are known in the art for a variety of host cells.

Typically, the transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid may include, but is not limited to, promoter sequences, leader or signal sequences, ribosomal binding sites, transcriptional start and stop sequences, translational start and stop sequences, and enhancer or activator sequences.

Constitutive or inducible promoters as known in the art are contemplated by the invention. The promoters may be either naturally occurring promoters, or hybrid promoters that combine elements of more than one promoter.

In a preferred embodiment, the expression vector contains a selectable marker gene to allow the selection of transformed host cells. Selection genes are well known in the art and will vary with the host cell used.

The expression vector may also include a fusion partner (typically provided by the expression vector) so that the recombinant polypeptide of the invention is expressed as a fusion polypeptide with said fusion partner. The main advantage of fusion partners is that they assist, identification and/or purification of said fusion polypeptide.

In order to express said fusion polypeptide, it is necessary to ligate a nucleotide sequence according to the invention into the expression vector so that the translational reading frames of the fusion partner and the nucleotide sequence of the invention coincide.

Well known examples of fusion partners include, but are not limited to, glutathione-S-transferase (GST), Fc potion of human IgG, maltose binding protein (MBP) and hexahistidine (HIS.sub.6) (SEQ ID NO: 34), which are particularly useful for isolation of the fusion polypeptide by affinity chromatography. For the purposes of fusion polypeptide purification by affinity chromatography, relevant matrices for affinity chromatography are glutathione-, amylose-, and nickel- or cobalt-conjugated resins respectively. Many such matrices are available in "kit" form, such as the QIAexpress.TM. system (Qiagen) useful with (HIS.sub.6) (SEQ ID NO: 34) fusion.

Another fusion partner well known in the art is green fluorescent protein (GFP). This fusion partner serves as a fluorescent "tag" which allows the fusion polypeptide of the invention to be identified by fluorescence microscopy or by flow cytometry. The GFP tag is useful when assessing subcellular localization of the fusion polypeptide of the invention, or for isolating cells which express the fusion polypeptide of the invention. Flow cytometric methods such as fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) are particularly useful in this latter application.

Preferably, the fusion partners also have protease cleavage sites, such as for Factor X.sub.a or Thrombin, which allow the relevant protease to partially digest the fusion polypeptide of the invention and thereby liberate the recombinant polypeptide of the invention therefrom. The liberated polypeptide can then be isolated from the fusion partner by subsequent chromatographic separation.

Fusion partners according to the invention also include within their scope "epitope tags", which are usually short peptide sequences for which a specific antibody is available. Well known examples of epitope tags for which specific monoclonal antibodies are readily available include c-myc, influenza virus haemagglutinin and FLAG tags.

Recombinant polypeptides of the invention may be produced by culturing a host cell transformed with an expression vector containing nucleic acid encoding a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative according to the invention. The conditions appropriate for protein expression will vary with the choice of expression vector and the host cell. This is easily ascertained by one skilled in the art through routine experimentation.

Suitable host cells for expression may be prokaryotic or eukaryotic. One preferred host cell for expression of a polypeptide according to the invention is a bacterium. The bacterium used may be Escherichia coli. Alternatively, the host cell may be an insect cell such as, for example, SF9 cells that may be utilized with a baculovirus expression system.

The recombinant protein may be conveniently prepared by a person skilled in the art using standard protocols as for example described in Sambrook, et al., MOLECULAR CLONING. A LABORATORY MANUAL (Cold Spring Harbor Press, 1989), incorporated herein by reference, in particular Sections 16 and 17; Ausubel et al., CURRENT PROTOCOLS IN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1994-1998), incorporated herein by reference, in particular Chapters 10 and 16; and Coligan et al., CURRENT PROTOCOLS IN PROTEIN SCIENCE (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1995-1997) which is incorporated by reference herein, in particular Chapters 1, 5 and 6.

Nucleotide Sequences

The invention further provides a nucleotide sequence that encodes a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative as defined above. Suitably, said sequence is selected from the group consisting of:--SEQ ID NOS 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20; a nucleotide sequence fragment of any one of SEQ ID NOS 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20; and a nucleotide sequence homologue of the foregoing sequences. Suitably, these sequences encode a product that elicits an immune response as defined above.

As will be more fully described hereinafter, SEQ ID NO 1 corresponds to the hiaNm gene obtained from N. meningitidis strain MC58. This gene encodes the novel 62 kDa (approximately) surface polypeptide of SEQ ID NO 2. SEQ ID NO 3 corresponds to the hiaNim open reading frame sequence of strain MC58, HiaNm. SEQ ID NOS 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 correspond to the homologous hiaNm open reading frame sequences obtained from N. meningitidis strains BZ10, BZ198, EG327, EG329, H15, H38, H41, P20, and PMC21, respectively.

The term "nucleotide sequence" as used herein designates mRNA, RNA, cRNA, cDNA or DNA.

The term "nucleotide sequence homologues" generally refers to nucleotide sequences that hybridize with a wild-type nucleotide sequence according to the invention under substantially stringent conditions. Suitable hybridization conditions will be discussed hereinafter.

The nucleotide sequence homologues of the invention may be prepared according to the following procedure: (i) obtaining a nucleic acid extract from a suitable host; (ii) creating primers which are optionally degenerate wherein each comprises a portion of a wild-type nucleotide sequence of the invention; and (iii) using said primers to amplify, via nucleic acid amplification techniques, one or more amplification products from said nucleic acid extract.

Suitably, the host may be a bacterium. Preferably, the host is from the genus Neisseria, more preferably from N. meningitidis.

Preferably, the primers are selected from the group consisting of  -- see Original Patent..

Suitable nucleic acid amplification techniques are well known to the skilled addressee, and include polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as for example described in Ausubel et al. (1994-1998, supra, Chapter 15) which is incorporated herein by reference; strand displacement amplification (SDA) as for example described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,422,252 which is incorporated herein by reference; rolling circle replication (RCR) as for example described in Liu et al., (1996, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 118:1587-1594 and International application WO 92/01813) and Lizardi et al., (International Application WO 97/19193) which are incorporated herein by reference; nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) as for example described by Sooknanan et al., (1994, Biotechniques 17:1077-1080) which is incorporated herein by reference; and Q-.beta. replicase amplification as for example described by Tyagi: et al., (1996, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93:5395-5400) which is incorporated herein by reference.

As used herein, an "amplification product" refers to a nucleic acid product generated by nucleic acid amplification techniques.

"Hybridize" or "hybridization" is used here to denote the pairing of complementary bases of distinct nucleotide sequences to produce a DNA-DNA hybrid, a DNA-RNA hybrid, or an RNA-RNA hybrid according to base-pairing rules.

In DNA, complementary bases are:

(i) A and T; and

(ii) C and G.

In RNA, complementary bases are:

(i) A and U; and

(ii) C and G.

In RNA-DNA hybrids, complementary bases are:

(i) A and U;

(ii) A and T; and

(iii) G and C.

Typically, substantially complementary nucleotide sequences are identified by blotting techniques that include a step whereby nucleotides are immobilized on a matrix (preferably a synthetic membrane such as nitrocellulose), a hybridization step, and a detection step. Southern blotting is used to identify a complementary DNA sequence; northern blotting is used to identify a complementary RNA sequence. Dot blotting and slot blotting can be used to identify complementary DNA/DNA, DNA/RNA or RNA/RNA polynucleotide sequences. Such techniques are well known by those skilled in the art, and have been described in Ausubel et al. (1994-1998, supra) at pages 2.9.1 through 2.9.20.

According to such methods, Southern blotting involves separating DNA molecules according to size by gel electrophoresis, transferring the size-separated DNA to a synthetic membrane, and hybridizing the membrane bound DNA to a complementary nucleotide sequence labeled radioactively, enzymatically or fluorochromatically. In dot blotting and slot blotting, DNA samples are directly applied to a synthetic membrane prior to hybridization as above.

An alternative blotting step is used when identifying complementary nucleotide sequences in a cDNA or genomic DNA library, such as through the process of plaque or colony hybridization. A typical example of this procedure is described in Sambrook et al., (1989, supra) Chapters 8-12.

Typically, the following general procedure can be used to determine hybridization conditions. Nucleotide sequences are blotted/transferred to a synthetic membrane, as described above. A wild type nucleotide sequence of the invention is labeled as described above, and the ability of this labeled nucleotide sequence to hybridize with an immobilized nucleotide sequence analyzed.

A skilled addressee will recognize that a number of factors influence hybridization. The specific activity of radioactively labeled polynucleotide sequence should typically be greater than or equal to about 10.sup.8 dpm/mg to provide a detectable signal. A radiolabeled nucleotide sequence of specific activity 10.sup.8 to 10.sup.9 dpm/mg can detect approximately 0.5 pg of DNA. It is well known in the art that sufficient DNA must be immobilized on the membrane to permit detection. It is desirable to have excess immobilized DNA, usually 10 .mu.g. Adding an inert polymer such as 10% (w/v) dextran sulfate (MW 500,000) or polyethylene glycol 6000 during hybridization can also increase the sensitivity of hybridization (see Ausubel supra at 2.10.10).

To achieve meaningful results from hybridization between a nucleotide sequence immobilized on a membrane and a labeled nucleotide sequence, a sufficient amount of the labeled nucleotide sequence must be hybridized to the immobilized nucleotide sequence following washing. Washing ensures that the labeled nucleotide sequence is hybridized only to the immobilized nucleotide sequences with a desired degree of complementarity to the labeled nucleotide sequence.

"Stringency" as used herein, refers to the temperature and ionic strength conditions, and presence or absence of certain organic solvents, during hybridization. The higher the stringency, the higher will be the degree of complementarity between the immobilized nucleotide sequences and the labeled polynucleotide sequence.

"Stringent conditions" designates those conditions under which only nucleotide sequences having a high frequency of complementary bases will hybridize.

Typical stringent conditions include, for example, (1) 0.75 M dibasic sodium phosphate/0.5 M monobasic sodium phosphate/1 mM disodium EDTA/1% sarkosyl at about 42.degree. C. for at least 30 minutes; or (2) 6.0 M urea/0.4% sodium lauryl sulfate/0.1.times.SSC at about 42.degree. C. for at least 30 minutes; or (3) 0.1.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 68.degree. C. for at least 20 minutes; or (4) 1.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 55.degree. C. for about 60 minutes; or (5) 1.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 62.degree. C. for about 60 minutes; or (6) 1.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 68.degree. C. for about 60 minutes; or (7) 0.2.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 55.degree. C. for about 60 minutes; or (8) 0.2.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 62.degree. C. for about one hour; or (9) 0.2.times.SSC/0.1% SDS at about 68.degree. C. for about 60 minutes. For a detailed example, see CURRENT PROTOCOLS IN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY supra at pages 2.10.1 to 2.10.16 and Sambrook et al. in MOLECULAR CLONING. A LABORATORY MANUAL (Cold Spring Harbour Press, 1989) at sections 1.101 to 1.104, which are hereby incorporated by reference.

While stringent washes are typically carried out at temperatures from about 42.degree. C. to 68.degree. C., one skilled in the art will appreciate that other temperatures may be suitable for stringent conditions. Maximum hybridization typically occurs at about 20.degree. C. to 25.degree. C. below the T.sub.m for formation of a DNA-DNA hybrid. It is well known in the art that the T.sub.m is the melting temperature, or temperature at which two complementary polynucleotide sequences dissociate. Methods for estimating T.sub.m are well known in the art (see CURRENT PROTOCOLS IN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY supra at page 2.10.8). Maximum hybridization typically occurs at about 10.degree. C. to 15.degree. C. below the T.sub.m for a DNA-RNA hybrid.

Other stringent conditions are well known in the art. A skilled addressee will recognize that various factors can be manipulated to optimize the specificity of the hybridization. Optimization of the stringency of the final washes can serve to ensure a high degree of hybridization.

Methods for detecting labeled nucleotide sequences hybridized to an immobilized nucleotide sequence are well known to practitioners in the art. Such methods include autoradiography, chemiluminescent, fluorescent and colorimetric detection.

Antibodies

The invention also contemplates antibodies against the aforementioned polypeptides, fragments, variants and derivatives. Such antibodies may include any suitable antibodies that bind to or conjugate with a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative of the invention. For example, the antibodies may comprise polyclonal antibodies. Such antibodies may be prepared for example by injecting a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative of the invention into a production species, which may include mice or rabbits, to obtain polyclonal antisera. Methods of producing polyclonal antibodies are well known to those skilled in the art. Exemplary protocols which may be used are described for example in Coligan et al., CURRENT PROTOCOLS IN IMMUNOLOGY, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1991) which is incorporated herein by reference, and Ausubel et al., (1994-1998, supra), in particular Section III of Chapter 1.1.

In lieu of the polyclonal antisera obtained in the production species, monoclonal antibodies may be produced using the standard method as for example, described in an article by Kohler and Milstein (1975, Nature 256, 495-497) which is herein incorporated by reference, or by more recent modifications thereof as for example, described in Coligan et al., (1991, supra) by immortalizing spleen or other antibody producing cells derived from a production species which has been inoculated with one or more of the polypeptides, fragments, variants or derivatives of the invention.

The invention also includes within its scope antibodies which comprise Fc or Fab fragments of the polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies referred to above. Alternatively, the antibodies may comprise single chain Fv antibodies (scFvs) against the peptides of the invention. Such scFvs may be prepared, for example, in accordance with the methods described respectively in U.S. Pat. No. 5,091,513, European Patent No 239,400 or the article by Winter and Milstein (1991, Nature, 349 293) which are incorporated herein by reference.

The antibodies of the invention may be used for affinity chromatography in isolating natural or recombinant N. meningitidis polypeptides. For example reference may be made to immunoaffinity chromatographic procedures described in Chapter 9.5 of Coligan et al., (1995-1997, supra).

The antibodies can be used to screen expression libraries for variant polypeptides of the invention. The antibodies of the invention can also be used to detect N. meningitidis infection described hereinafter.

Detection of N. meningitidis

The presence or absence of N. meningitidis in a patient may determined by isolating a biological sample from a patient, mixing an antibody or antibody fragment described above with the biological sample to form a mixture, and detecting specifically bound antibody or bound fragment in the mixture which indicates the presence of N. meningitidis in the sample.

The term "biological sample" as used herein refers to a sample that may be extracted, untreated, treated, diluted or concentrated from a patient. Suitably, the biological sample is selected from the group consisting of whole blood, serum, plasma, saliva, urine, sweat, ascitic fluid, peritoneal fluid, synovial fluid, amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, skin biopsy, and the like.

Any suitable technique for determining formation of the complex may be used. For example, an antibody or antibody fragment according to the invention having a label associated therewith may be utilized in immunoassays. Such immunoassays may include, but are not limited to, radioimmunoassays (RIAs), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and immunochromatographic techniques (ICTs) which are well known those of skill in the art. For example, reference may be made to "CURRENT PROTOCOLS IN IMMUNOLOGY" (1994, supra) which discloses a variety of immunoassays that may be used in accordance with the present invention. Immunoassays may include competitive assays as understood in the art.

The label associated with the antibody or antibody fragment may include the following: i. direct attachment of the label to the antibody or antibody fragment; ii. indirect attachment of the label to the antibody or antibody fragment; i.e., attachment of the label to another assay reagent which subsequently binds to the antibody or antibody fragment; and iii. attachment to a subsequent reaction product of the antibody, or antibody fragment.

The label may be selected from a group including a chromogen, a catalyst, an enzyme, a fluorophore, a chemiluminescent molecule, a lanthanide ion such as Europium (Eu.sup.34), a radioisotope and a direct visual label.

In the case of a direct visual label, use may be made of a colloidal metallic or non-metallic particle, a dye particle, an enzyme or a substrate, an organic polymer, a latex particle, a liposome, or other vesicle containing a signal producing substance and the like.

A large number of enzymes suitable for use as labels is disclosed in United States Patent Specifications U.S. Pat. No. 4,366,241, U.S. Pat. No. 4,843,000, and U.S. Pat. No. 4,849,338, all of which are herein incorporated by reference. Suitable enzyme labels useful in the present invention include alkaline phosphatase, horseradish peroxidase, luciferase, .beta.-galactosidase, glucose oxidase, lysozyme, malate dehydrogenase and the like. The enzyme label may be used alone or in combination with a second enzyme that is in solution.

Suitably, the fluorophore is selected from a group including fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC), tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate (TRITL) or R-Phycoerythrin (RPE).

The invention also extends to a method for detecting infection of patients by N. meningitidis, said method comprising the steps of contacting a biological sample from a patient with a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative of the invention, and determining the presence or absence of a complex between said polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative and N. meningitidis-specific antibodies in said serum, wherein the presence of said complex is indicative of said infection.

In a preferred embodiment, detection of the above complex is effected by detectably modifying said polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative with a suitable label as is well known in the art and using such modified compound in a suitable immunoassay as for example described above.

In another aspect, the invention provides a method of detecting N. meningitides bacteria in a biological sample suspected of containing said bacteria, said method comprising the steps of isolating the biological sample from a patient, detecting a nucleic acid sequence according to the invention in said sample which indicates the presence of said bacteria.

Detection of the said nucleic acid sequence may be determined using any suitable technique. For example, a labeled nucleic acid sequence according to the invention may be used as a probe in a Southern blot of a nucleic acid extract obtained from a patient as is well known in the art. Alternatively, a labeled nucleic acid sequence according to the invention may be utilized as a probe in a Northern blot of a RNA extract from the patient. Preferably, a nucleic acid extract from the patient is utilized in concert with oligonucleotide primers corresponding to sense and antisense sequences of a nucleic acid sequence according to the invention, or flanking sequences thereof, in a nucleic acid amplification reaction such as PCR, or the ligase chain reaction (LCR) as for example described in International Application WO89/09385 which is incorporated by reference herein. A variety of automated solid-phase detection techniques are also appropriate. For example, very large scale immobilized primer arrays (VLSIPS.TM.) are used for the detection of nucleic acids as for example described by Fodor et al., (1991, Science 251:767-777) and Kazal et al., (1996, Nature Medicine 2:753-759). The above generic techniques are well known to persons skilled in the art.

Pharmaceutical Compositions

A further feature of the invention is the use of the polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative of the invention ("immunogenic agents") as actives in a pharmaceutical composition for protecting patients against infection by N. meningitides. Suitably, the pharmaceutical composition comprises a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier.

By "pharmaceutically-acceptable carrier" is meant a solid or liquid filler, diluent or encapsulating substance that may be safely used in systemic administration. Depending upon the particular route of administration, a variety of pharmaceutically acceptable carriers, well known in the art may be used. These carriers may be selected from a group including sugars, starches, cellulose and its derivatives, malt, gelatine, talc, calcium sulfate, vegetable oils, synthetic oils, polyols, alginic acid, phosphate buffered solutions, emulsifiers, isotonic saline, and pyrogen-free water.

Any suitable route of administration may be employed for providing a patient with the composition of the invention. For example, oral, rectal, parenteral, sublingual, buccal, intravenous, intra-articular, intra-muscular, intra-dermal, subcutaneous, inhalational, intraocular, intraperitoneal, intracerebroventricular, transdermal and the like may be employed. Intra-muscular and subcutaneous injection is appropriate, for example, for administration of immunogenic compositions, vaccines and DNA vaccines.

Dosage forms include tablets, dispersions, suspensions, injections, solutions, syrups, troches, capsules, suppositories, aerosols, transdermal patches and the like. These dosage forms may also include injecting or implanting controlled releasing devices designed specifically for this purpose or other forms of implants modified to act additionally in this fashion. Controlled release of the therapeutic agent may be effected by coating the same, for example, with hydrophobic polymers including acrylic resins, waxes, higher aliphatic alcohols, polylactic and polyglycolic acids and certain cellulose derivatives such as hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose. In addition, the controlled release may be effected by using other polymer matrices, liposomes and/or microspheres.

Pharmaceutical compositions of the present invention suitable for oral or parenteral administration may be presented as discrete units such as capsules, sachets or tablets each containing a pre-determined amount of one or more therapeutic agents of the invention, as a powder or granules or as a solution or a suspension in an aqueous liquid, a non-aqueous liquid, an oil-in-water emulsion or a water-in-oil liquid emulsion. Such compositions may be prepared by any of the methods of pharmacy but all methods include the step of bringing into association one or more immunogenic agents as described above with the carrier which constitutes one or more necessary ingredients. In general, the compositions are prepared by uniformly and intimately admixing the immunogenic agents of the invention with liquid carriers or finely divided solid carriers or both, and then, if necessary, shaping the product into the desired presentation.

The above compositions may be administered in a manner compatible with the dosage formulation, and in such amount as is immunogenically-effective to protect patients from N. meningitidis infection. The dose administered to a patient, in the context of the present invention, should be sufficient to effect a beneficial response in a patient over time such as a reduction in the level of N. meningitidis, or to inhibit infection by N. meningitidis. The quantity of the immunogenic agent(s) to be administered may depend on the subject to be treated inclusive of the age, sex, weight and general health condition thereof. In this regard, precise amounts of the immunogenic agent(s) required to be administered will depend on the judgement of the practitioner. In determining the effective amount of the immunogenic agent to be administered in the treatment or prophylaxis against N. meningitidis, the physician may evaluate circulating plasma levels, progression of disease, and the production of anti-N. meningitidis antibodies. In any event, suitable dosages of the immunogenic agents of the invention may be readily determined by those of skill in the art. Such dosages may be in the order of nanograms to milligrams of the immunogenic agents of the invention.

The above compositions may be used as therapeutic or prophylactic vaccines. Accordingly, the invention extends to the production of vaccines containing as actives one or more of the immunogenic agents of the invention. Any suitable procedure is contemplated for producing such vaccines. Exemplary procedures include, for example, those described in NEW GENERATION VACCINES (1997, Levine et al., Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York, Basel Hong Kong), which is incorporated herein by reference.

An immunogenic agent according to the invention can be mixed, conjugated or fused with other antigens, including B or T cell epitopes of other antigens. In addition, it can be conjugated to a carrier as described below.

When an haptenic peptide of the invention is used (i.e., a peptide which reacts with cognate antibodies, but cannot itself elicit an immune response), it can be conjugated with an immunogenic carrier. Useful carriers are well known in the art and include for example: thyroglobulin; albumins such as human serum albumin; toxins, toxoids or any mutant crossreactive material (CRM) of the toxin from tetanus, diptheria, pertussis, Pseudomonas, E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Streprococcus; polyamino acids such as poly(lysine:glutamic acid); influenza; Rotavirus VP6, Parvovirus VP1 and VP2; hepatitis B virus core protein; hepatitis B virus recombinant vaccine and the like. Alternatively, a fragment or epitope of a carrier protein or other immnogenic protein may be used. For example, a haptenic peptide of the invention can be coupled to a T cell epitope of a bacterial toxin, toxoid or CRM. In this regard, reference may be made to U.S. Pat. No. 5,785,973 which is incorporated herein by reference.

In addition, a polypeptide, fragment, variant or derivative of the invention may act as a carrier protein in vaccine compositions directed against Neisseria, or against other bacteria or viruses.

The immunogenic agents of the invention may be administered as multivalent subunit vaccines in combination with antigens of N. meningitidis, or antigens of other organisms inclusive of the pathogenic bacteria H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis, N. gonorrhoeae, E. Coli, S. pneumoniae etc. Alternatively or additionally, they may be administered in concert with oligosaccharide or polysaccharide components of N. meningitidis.

The vaccines can also contain a physiologically acceptable diluent or excipient such as water, phosphate buffered saline and saline.

The vaccines and immunogenic compositions may include an adjuvant as is well known in the art. Suitable adjuvants include, but are not limited to: surface active substances such as hexadecylamine, octadecylamine, octadecyl amino acid esters, lysolecithin, dimethyldioctadecylammonium bromide, N,N-dicoctadecyl-N',N'bis(2-hydroxyethyl-propanediamine), methoxyhexadecylglycerol, and pluronic polyols; polyamines such as pyran, dextransulfate, poly IC carbopol; peptides such as muramyl dipeptide and derivatives, dimethylglycine, tuftsin; oil emulsions; and mineral gels such as aluminum phosphate, aluminum hydroxide or alum; lymphokines, QuilA and immune stimulating complexes (ISCOMS).

The immunogenic agents of the invention may be expressed by attenuated viral hosts. By "attenuated viral hosts" is meant viral vectors that are either naturally, or have been rendered, substantially avirulent. A virus may be rendered substantially avirulent by any suitable physical (e.g., heat treatment) or chemical means (e.g., formaldehyde treatment). By "substantially avirulent" is meant a virus whose infectivity has been destroyed. Ideally, the infectivity of the virus is destroyed without affecting the proteins that carry the immunogenicity of the virus. From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that attenuated viral hosts may comprise live viruses or inactivated viruses.

Attenuated viral hosts which may be useful in a vaccine according to the invention may comprise viral vectors inclusive of adenovirus, cytomegalovirus and preferably pox viruses such as vaccinia (see for example Paoletti and Panicali, U.S. Pat. No. 4,603,112 which is incorporated herein by reference) and attenuated Salmonella strains (see for example Stocker, U.S. Pat. No. 4,550,081 which is herein incorporated by reference). Live vaccines are particularly advantageous because they lead to a prolonged stimulus that can confer substantially long-lasting immunity.

Multivalent vaccines can be prepared from one or more microorganisms that express different epitopes of N. meningitidis (e.g., other surface proteins or epitopes of N. meningitidis). In addition, epitopes of other pathogenic microorganisms can be incorporated into the vaccine.

In a preferred embodiment, this will involve the construction of a recombinant vaccinia virus to express a nucleic acid sequence according to the invention. Upon introduction into a host, the recombinant vaccinia virus expresses the immunogenic agent, and thereby elicits a host CTL response. For example, reference may be made to U.S. Pat. No. 4,722,848, incorporated herein by reference, which describes vaccinia vectors and methods useful in immunization protocols.

A wide variety of other vectors useful for therapeutic administration or immunization with the immunogenic agents of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the present disclosure.

In a further embodiment, the nucleotide sequence may be used as a vaccine in the form of a "naked DNA" vaccine as is known in the art. For example, an expression vector of the invention may be introduced into a mammal, where it causes production of a polypeptide in vivo, against which the host mounts an immune response as for example described in Barry, M. et al., (1995, Nature, 377:632-635) which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Detection Kits

The present invention also provides kits for the detection of N. meningitidis in a biological sample. These will contain one or more particular agents described above depending upon the nature of the test method employed. In this regard, the kits may include one or more of a polypeptide, fragment, variant, derivative, antibody, antibody fragment or nucleic acid according to the invention. The kits may also optionally include appropriate reagents for detection of labels, positive and negative controls, washing solutions, dilution buffers and the like. For example, a nucleic acid-based detection kit may include (i) a nucleic acid according to the invention (which may be used as a positive control), (ii) an oligonucleotide primer according to the invention, and optionally a DNA polymerase, DNA ligase etc depending on the nucleic acid amplification technique employed.

Preparation of Immunoreactive Fragments

The invention also extends to a method of identifying an immunoreactive fragment of a polypeptide, variant or derivatives according to the invention. This method essentially comprises generating a fragment of the polypeptide, variant or derivative, administering the fragment to a mammal; and detecting an immune response in the mammal. Such response will include production of elements which specifically bind N. meningitidis and/or said polypeptide, variant or derivative, and/or a protective effect against N. meningitidis infection.

Prior to testing a particular fragment for immunoreactivity in the above method, a variety of predictive methods may be used to deduce whether a particular fragment can be used to obtain an antibody that cross-reacts with the native antigen. These predictive methods may be based on amino-terminal or carboxy-terminal sequence as for example described in Chapter 11.14 of Ausubel et al., (1994-1998, supra.). Alternatively, these predictive methods may be based on predictions of hydrophilicity as for example described by Kyte and Doolittle (1982, J. Mol. Biol. 157:105-132) and Hopp and Woods (1983, Mol. Immunol. 20:483-489) which are incorporated by reference herein, or predictions of secondary structure as for example described by Choo and Fasman (1978, Ann. Rev. Biochem. 47:251-276), which is incorporated herein by reference.

Generally, peptide fragments consisting of 10 to 15 residues provide optimal results. Peptides as small as 6 or as large as 20 residues have worked successfully. Such peptide fragments may then be chemically coupled to a carrier molecule such as keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) or bovine serum albumin (BSA) as for example described in Sections 11.14 and 11.15 of Ausubel et al., (1994-1998, supra).

The peptides may be used to immunize an animal as for example discussed above. Antibody titers against the native or parent polypeptide from which the peptide was selected may then be determined by, for example, radioimmunoassay or ELISA as for instance described in Sections 11.16 and 114 of Ausubel et al., (1994-1998, supra).

Antibodies may then be purified from a suitable biological fluid of the animal by ammonium sulfate fractionation or by chromatography as is well known in the art. Exemplary protocols for antibody purification is given in Sections 10.11 and 11.13 of Ausubel et al., (1994-1998, supra).

Immunoreactivity of the antibody against the native or parent polypeptide may be determined by any suitable procedure such as, for example, western blot.

Functional Blockers

The polypeptides according to SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 are believed to have adhesin properties. They in fact have some similarity to adhesins of Haemophilus influenzae, which are surface antigens. Specifically they are approximately 67% homologous to the Hia protein of H. influenzae (Barenkamp, S. and St. Geme III, J. 1996 Molecular Microbiology 19: 1215-1233), and 74% homologous to the Hsf protein of H. influenzae (St. Geme III, J. et al, 1996, Journal of Bacteriology 178: 6281-6287; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,646,259). For these comparisons, a gap weight of 3, and length weight of 0.01 was used using the GAP program (Deveraux, 1984, supra). Aligned sequences of these proteins are illustrated in FIG. 6 (see Original Patent). Thus, interruption of the function of these polypeptides would be of significant therapeutic benefit since they would prevent N. meningitidis bacteria from adhering to and invading cells. Interruption of the function may be effected in several ways.

For example, moieties such as chemical reagents or polypeptides which block receptors on the cell surface which interact with a polypeptides according to SEQ ID NOS 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 may be administered. These compete with the infective organism for receptor sites. Such moieties may comprise for example polypeptides of the invention, in particular fragments, or functional equivalents of these as well as mimetics.

The term "mimetics" is used herein to refer to chemicals that are designed to resemble particular functional regions of the proteins or peptides. Anti-idiotypic antibodies raised against the above-described antibodies which block the binding of the bacteria to a cell surface may also be used. Alternatively, moieties which interact with the receptor binding sites in the polypeptides according to SEQ ID NO 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 may effectively prevent infection of a cell by N. meningitidis. Such moieties may comprise blocking antibodies, peptides or other chemical reagents.

All such moieties, pharmaceutical compositions in which they are combined with pharmaceutically acceptable carriers and methods of treating patients suffering from N. meningitidis infection by administration of such moieties or compositions form a further aspect of the invention.

The polypeptides of the invention may be used in the screening of compounds for their use in the above methods. For example, polypeptides of the invention may be combined with a label and exposed to a cell culture in the presence of a reagent under test. The ability of reagent to inhibit the binding of the labeled polypeptide to the cell surface can then be observed. In such a screen, the labeled polypeptides may be used directly on an organism such as E. coli. Alternatively, N. meningitidis itself may be engineered to express a modified and detectable form of the polypeptide. The use of engineered N. meningitidis strains in this method is preferred as it is more likely that the tertiary structure of the protein will resemble more closely that expressed in wild-type bacteria.


Claim 1 of 9 Claims

1. An isolated polypeptide comprising a member selected from the group consisting of (a) the amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO:2 or SEQ ID NO:21; and (b) an immunogenic fragment of at least 15 contiguous amino acids of SEQ ID NO:2 or SEQ ID NO:21; wherein the immunogenic fragment, when administered to a subject in a suitable composition which can include an adjuvant, or a suitable carrier coupled to the polypeptide, induces an antibody or T-cell mediated immune response that recognizes the isolated polypeptide SEQ ID NO:2 or SEQ ID NO:21.

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