Title:
Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae subunit vaccine
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to live attenuated bacteria of the genus Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae that have a mutation in an apxIV gene such that no functional ApxIV toxin can be produced. The invention also relates to methods for the production of such bacteria. Also vaccines comprising such bacteria and methods for the production of such vaccines are part of the invention. The invention further relates to subunit vaccines comprising an ApxIV toxin, to methods for the production of such vaccines and to methods for the protection of animals against infection with bacteria of the genus Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae. In addition, the invention relates to the promotor of the apxIV gene. Finally, the invention relates to diagnostic tests for the selective diagnosis of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae infections and to diagnostic tests discriminating between Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae field strains and vaccine strains.



Inventors:
Segers, Ruud Philip Antoon Maria (Mz Boxmeer, NL)
Application Number:
10/798941
Publication Date:
10/14/2004
Filing Date:
03/10/2004
Assignee:
SEGERS RUUD PHILIP ANTOON MARIA
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
435/252.3, 435/471, 536/23.7
International Classes:
A61K39/295; C07K14/195; C07K14/285; C12N1/21; C12N15/74; A61K39/00; (IPC1-7): A61K39/02; C07H21/04; C12N1/21; C12N9/14; C12N15/74
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HINES, JANA A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Merck (Rahway, NJ, US)
Claims:
1. 1-6. (canceled)

7. A nucleotide sequence harbouring the promoter controlling the expression of the apxIV gene.

8. The nucleotide sequence according to claim 7, characterized in that it comprises the DNA fragment from position 451 to 1132 of SEQ ID NO: 5 or a subfragment thereof still having promoter activity.

9. The nucleotide sequence according to claim 7, characterized in that it comprises the DNA fragment FROM POSITION 617 TO 641 OF SEQ ID NO:5.

10. 10-19. (canceled)

Description:
[0001] The present invention relates to live attenuated bacteria of the genus Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, having a mutation in a gene encoding a toxin, methods for the production of such bacteria, to vaccines comprising such bacteria, methods for the production of such vaccines, to vaccines comprising a toxin, methods for the production of such vaccines and methods for the protection of animals against infection with bacteria of the genus Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae.

[0002] Bacteria belonging to the genus Actinobacillus all produce so-called RTX-oxins. (RTX stands for repeat in toxin).

[0003] It is the presence of these RTX-toxins that highly contributes to the pathogenic character of these bacteria.

[0004] The RTX-toxins have been extensively reviewed by Braun et al. (Critical Rev. in Microbiol. 18(2): 115-158 (1991)). RTX-toxins in Gram-negative strains have also been reviewed in Welch, R. A. (Molecular Microbiology 5/3: 521-528 (1991)) and in Welch et al. (Inf. Agents and Disease 4: 254-272 (1995)).

[0005] All known RTX-toxins display some kind of cytotoxic or cytolytic activity. The target-cell- and host-specificity differ however, depending on the toxin and on differences in acylation (McWhinney et al.; J. Bact. 174: 291-297 (1992) and Hackett et al.; J. Biol. Chem. 270: 20250-20253 (1995)). As a result of the difference in target cells, the various toxins of the RTX-toxin family are known e.g. as haemolysin, cytolysin or cytotoxin.

[0006] The genus Actinobacillus comprises a number of different species, inter alia, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, A. actinomycetemcomitans, A. suis, A. rossii, A. equuli and A. lignieresii.

[0007] Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae produces serotype-dependent RTX-toxins that are cytotoxic/cytolytic to pig, horse, bovine and human erythrocytes, to rabbit and porcine neutrophils and to porcine alveolar macrophages. (Rosendal et al; Am. J. Vet. Res. 49: 1053-1058 (1988), Maudsley J. R. and Kadis S; Can. J. Microbiol. 32: 801-805 (1986), Frey. J and Nicolet. J; Inf. & Imm. 56:2570-2575 (1988), Bendixon et al; Inf. & Imm. 33: 673-676 (1981), Kamp, E. M. and van Leengoed, L. A. M. G.; J. Clin. Microbiol. 27: 1187-1191 (1989)).

[0008] Infections with Actinobacillus in pigs are the cause of severe economic losses to pig industry, due to acute mortality in young pigs and reduced weight gain in older animals.

[0009] The genetic organisation of the operons involved in the synthesis, activation and transportation of the RTX toxins in Gram-negative bacteria has been reviewed recently by Coote, J. G. (FEMS Microbiology reviews 88: 137-162 (1992)). Frey has specifically reviewed the known three RTX-toxins in Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae in Bacterial Protein Toxins, Zbl Bakt. Suppl. 24, p. 322-, Freer et al. (Eds.), Gustaf Fischer, Stutttgart, Jena, N.Y., 1994.

[0010] In Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, this kind of RTX-operon contains four genes: the actual Toxin-gene (A), an Activator-gene (C), and two genes (B and D) encoding proteins involved in secretion of the toxin into the surrounding medium. The primary translation-product of the Toxin-gene (A) is a non-toxic protein, of which the toxic activity is activated by the Activator-gene (C) product.

[0011] Until recently, it was assumed that only three RTX-toxins, all having the above-described genetic organisation or at least having the Toxin-gene (A) and Activator-gene (C), existed in Actinobacillus species.

[0012] These three RTX-toxins, ApxI, Apx-II and Apx-III have respectively a pronounced haemolytic activity (ApxI), a mild haemolytic activity (Apx-II) or a macrophage-cytotoxic activity (Apx-I).

[0013] The various toxic activities are fairly randomly divided over the serotypes. There are four subgroups:

[0014] a subgroup A, represented by serotypes 1, 5, 9 and 11, producing ApxI and Apx-II,

[0015] a subgroup B, represented by serotypes 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8, producing Apx-II and Apx-III,

[0016] a subgroup C, represented by serotype 10, producing ApxI only,

[0017] a subgroup D, represented by serotype 7 and 12, producing Apx-II only,

[0018] It is known, that ApxI, -II, and -III all are essential elements in universal vaccines against Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae infection: a vaccine not comprising at least ApxI, -II, and -III will not provide protection against all Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae serotypes. Also, a vaccine not comprising at least the Apx-toxins of one specific serotype Will not even induce protection against that single serotype.

[0019] Subunit vaccines based on in vitro synthesised RTX-toxins from A. pleuropneumoniae that lost their toxicity have been described earlier, e.g. in European Patent EP No. 0.354.628, in which subunit vaccines based upon a haemolysin and a cytotoxin of A. pleuropneumoniae are disclosed, and in European Patent EP No 0.453.024, in which A. pleuropneumoniae subunit vaccines based upon haemolysins, cytotoxins and outer membrane proteins are disclosed.

[0020] There are however four important disadvantages to subunit vaccines in general:

[0021] high amounts of antigenic material are needed in order to adequately trigger the immune system.

[0022] usually, only B-cell immunity is triggered.

[0023] several protective antigens are only triggered in vivo, and therefore can not be present in subunit vaccines.

[0024] a live pathogenic bacterium has many important immunogenic molecules, such as Outer Membrane Proteins and capsular polysaccharides, all potentially important for protection and thus to be included in an efficient subunit vaccine.

[0025] Next to the obvious problems mentioned under points one and two, especially the fourth point makes it difficult to make an efficient subunit vaccine.

[0026] This is e.g. illustrated by the A. pleuropneumoniae subunit vaccine disclosed in European Patent EP No 0.453.024 mentioned above, in which four different subunits (three RTX-toxins and an outer membrane protein) are combined in one vaccine.

[0027] It is clear, that in order to overcome the disadvantages of subunit vaccines against Pasteurellaceae-infection, a live attenuated vaccine would be highly desirable.

[0028] A live attenuated vaccine has the following advantages:

[0029] it can be administered in low doses (it is self-replicating)

[0030] it closely mimics the natural/wild-type infection

[0031] it provides all the possible immunologically important antigens at the same time.

[0032] Nevertheless, in spite of the clear advantages, no live vaccines based on Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae were commercially available prior to the present invention.

[0033] The reason for this lies in the following paradox: as mentioned before, ApxI, -II, and -III all are essential elements of universal vaccines against Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae infection. Live vaccines therefore have to produce these three RTX-toxins. These three RTX-toxins are however strong virulence factors in all Actinobacillus species (see e.g. Coote, J. G.; FEMS Microbiology reviews 88: 137-162 (1992), Tascon et al.; Mol. Microbiol. 14: 207-216 (1994)), Jansen et al.; Inf. & Imm. 63: 27-37 (1995)).

[0034] Deletion of the RTX-toxins in order to attenuate the virulence of live App strains is technically feasible, but this does not provide a solution for the dilemma: such RTX-negative strains would be useless as live attenuated vaccine strains since they do no longer induce immunity in the host against the haemolytic/cytotoxic activity of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae field strains.

[0035] Virulence factors that, although important in the induction of immunity, do play a less important role in building up immunity than ApxI, -II and -III, and thus can in principle be deleted are however currently not known.

[0036] It would thus be highly desirable to have a site on the genome of App that attributes to virulence and therefore leads to an attenuated App strain when modified, whereas at the same time it is, although useful in triggering immunity, dispensable from a vaccine point of view. No such sites are however currently known. Moreover, it would be highly desirable if such a site would be universally present in all App strains, instead of being restricted to certain serotypes. Such a site would then allow all different serotypes to be attenuated by deletion of that same site.

[0037] It is one of the objectives of the present invention to provide such an attenuation site, universally present in all Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae strains regardless their serotype.

[0038] Recently, a new gene was found in a serotype 1 strain of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (Thesis T. J. Anderson November 1995).

[0039] Although this gene does not resemble the known Actinobacillus ApxI, -II and -III genes, it bears resemblance to RTX-toxin genes known from bacteria belonging to Neisseria meningitidis, for which reason it was named RTX-gene apxIV. The gene however differs in almost all aspects from the three known RTX-toxin genes apxI, -II and -III present in the various species of the Actinobacillus family as described above. First of all, the genomic organisation is completely different. Secondly, there is no activator-mechanism as is found for the known Apx-toxins. In the third place, no specific in vivo haemolytic or cytotoxic activity could at that time be attributed to the gene, or it's possible gene product.

[0040] It was now surprisingly found that this gene, fully in contrast with the three known RTX-genes, is present in all bacteria of the species Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, regardless their serotype. This was determined by hybridisation of a probe comprising apxIV coding sequences with restriction fragments of the DNA from Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae of all serotypes as described in Example 6 and 7.

[0041] Unexpectedly it was found now, that apxIV deletion mutants are viable, but they behave less virulent compared to their apxIV-possessing parent strains. Therefore, it was determined that the gene product, the ApxIV toxin is a virulence factor in all Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae strains. This is an unexpected conclusion, since up until now, no effects at al, let alone effects possibly influencing virulence had been attributed to the gene product in vivo. In fact, up until now there was not even proof that the gene was expressed in Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae in vivo or in vitro anyway. It therefore is one of the merits of the invention that it was found that:

[0042] the apxIV gene is present in all A. pleuropneumoniae strains regardless the serotype,

[0043] the apxIV gene product is a virulence factor in all A. pleuropneumoniae serotypes,

[0044] A. pleurapneumoniae strains with a deletion in the apxIV gene are still viable but have a decreased virulence without significantly impairing the immunogenic properties of the strains,

[0045] Therefore, the invention provides for the first time live attenuated bacteria of the species Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, that do not produce a functional ApxIV toxin.

[0046] A functional ApxIV toxin is considered to be a protein that has all the characteristics of the ApxIV toxin as expressed in a wild-type bacterium, and is expressed at the wild-type level. Therefore, a non-functional ApxIV toxin is considered to be a toxin that lacks some or all of the characteristics of the ApxIV toxin as expressed in a wild-type bacterium, and/or is expressed at a level, insufficient to obtain wild-type effects of ApxIV toxin.

[0047] The inability to produce the ApxIV toxin can e.g. be due to modifications in the coding sequence encoding the ApxIV toxin. It may also be e.g. the result of modifications in regions known to be involved in transcription of the apxIV gene, such as the promotor region, or of modifications in regions involved in translation, such as the ribosome binding site.

[0048] The overall structure of the apxIV gene is given in FIG. 1.

[0049] In this figure, the direct repeat regions, characteristic for ApxIV toxin are indicated by dashed boxes, whereas the also ApxIV-specific glycine-rich nonapeptide regions are indicated by black arrows. The repeats are found at the C-terminal part of ApxIV. These characteristic features are present in all Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae serotypes. The nucleic acid sequence and amino acid sequence of two serotypes are represented in SEQ. ID. No. 1-4. SEQ. ID. NO. 1 shows the nucleic acid sequence of the apxIV gene of App serotype 1, and SEQ. ID. NO. 2 shows the matching amino acid sequence of the serotype 1 ApxIV toxin. SEQ. ID. NO. 3 shows the nucleotide sequence of the apxIV gene of App serotype 3, whereas SEQ. ID. NO. 4 shows the matching amino acid sequence of the se rotype 3 ApxIV toxin. FIG. 2 shows the strikingly high level of conservation at amino acid level, especially in the N-terminal 650 amino acids, between the Apx-tokins of the various Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae serotypes. This is also a remarkable characteristic of the apxIV genes. It is dear from FIG. 1, that a variation in the number of repeats at the C-terminal part of the toxin may occur, depending on the serotype. This variation accounts for the difference in size of the genes and encoded toxins obtained from the various sero-types.

[0050] There may be some variation in nucleic acid sequence even between apxIV genes isolated from different isolates of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, belonging to the same serotype. This is due to natural variation well known in the art to exist in all organisms. It is possible that some amino acids in the ApxIV toxin encoded by the apxIV gene are replaced by others in the ApxIV toxin of another serotype, while the polypeptide is not altered in its function. For instance, a polypeptide containing Asp at a certain site, and its variant containing Asn at the comparable site still have the same properties. This process in which an amino acid is replaced by an functionally analogous amino-acid is called functional displacement. In this case the variant proteins are called functional variants. Another cause of variation is the phenomenon of degeneracy of the genetic code. Shortly, it means, that e.g. the amino acid glutamic acid is coded for by both GAT and GM. This phenomenon holds for all amino acids, except Met and Trp. Thus, it is obvious, that e.g. the ApxIV toxin of serotype 1, as given in the present invention can not only be coded for by the nucleotide sequence given in SEQ ID NO: 1 but also by a very large variety of other sequences, still all giving the same or functionally the same polypeptide.

[0051] Therefore, a variant apxIV sequence encoding a polypeptide that is functionally comparable to the ApxIV toxin falls within the scope of the present invention.

[0052] Live attenuated bacteria according to the invention can be obtained in several ways. One possible way of obtaining such bacteria is by means of classical methods such as the treatment of wild-type Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae bacteria with mutagenic agents such as base analogues, treatment with ultraviolet light or temperature treatment. Strains that do not produce a functional ApxIV toxin do not or to a lesser extend induce anti-ApxIV toxin antibodies, and therefore can easily be selected in animal tests. The necessary antiserum can be obtained as described below in Example 3. Another possibility is to deliberately introduce, using recombinant DNA-technology, a well-defined mutation in the gene encoding the ApxIV toxin. Such a mutation may be an insertion, a deletion, a replacement of one nucleotide by another one or a combination thereof, with the only proviso that the mutated gene no longer encodes a functional ApxIV toxin. It can easily be seen, that especially mutations introducing a stop-codon in the open reading frame, or mutations causing a frame-shift in the open reading frame are very suitable to obtain a strain which no longer encodes a functional ApxIV toxin. Such mutations can e.g. be made by means of in vitro site directed mutagenesis using the Transformer® kit sold by Clontech. Many other standard recombinant DNA techniques such as digestion of the gene with a restriction enzyme, followed by endonuclease treatment and religation, are equally applicable.

[0053] Therefore, in a preferred form, this embodiment of the invention relates to live attenuated bacteria in which the gene encoding the ApxIV toxin comprises a mutation.

[0054] Well-defined mutations involving the deletion of fragments of the apxIV gene or even the whole gene, or the insertion of heterologous DNA-fragments, when compared to classically induced mutations, have the advantage that they will not revert to the wild-type situation.

[0055] Thus, in a more preferred form, this embodiment of the invention refers to live attenuated bacteria in which the gene encoding the ApxIV toxin comprises an insertion and/or a deletion.

[0056] Given the large amount of vaccines given nowadays to pigs, it is clear that combined administration of several vaccines would be desirable, if only for reasons of decreased vaccination costs. It is therefore very attractive to use live attenuated vaccine strains as a recombinant carrier for heterologous genes, encoding antigens selected from other pathogenic micro-organisms or viruses. Administration of such a recombinant carrier has the advantage that after administration of such a carrier, immunity is induced against two or more diseases at the same time. The live attenuated bacteria according to the present invention provide a very suitable carrier for heterologous genes, since the gene encoding the ApxIV toxin can be used as an insertion site for such heterologous genes. The use of the apxIV gene as an insertion site has the advantage that at the same time the apxIV gene is inactivated, and the newly introduced heterologous gene can be expressed in accordance with the homologous Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae genes. The construction of such recombinant carriers can be done routinely, using standard molecular biology techniques such as homologous recombination. Therefore, in an even more preferred embodiment, the present invention relates to live attenuated bacteria of the species Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae that do not produce a functional ApxIV toxin, and in which there is a heterologous gene inserted in the apxIV gene. Such a heterologous gene can, as mentioned above, e.g. be a gene encoding an antigen selected from other pathogenic micro-organisms or viruses. Another possibility is to insert a gene encoding a protein involved in triggering the immune system, such as an interleukine or an interferone.

[0057] In a still even more preferred form of the invention, the heterologous gene encodes one or more antigens selected from the group consisting of Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus, Pseudorabies virus, Porcine Influenza virus, Porcine Parvovirus, Transmissible Gastroenteritis virus, rotavirus, Escherichia coli, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Pasteurella multocida, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Haemophilus parasuis and Streptococcus suis.

[0058] There is however a serious pitfall in expression of heterologous genes in recombinant carriers: it is known that several proteins are toxic if they are expressed in heterologous bacteria. Therefore, genes encoding such proteins can never be introduced in heterologous carriers, since successful recombinants will eventually die as a result of the expression a certain amount of the heterologous gene. The P2-protein of Haemophilus influenzae, to name just one example, can simply not be expressed in E. coli. (Munson et al., Infect. & Immun. 57: 88-94 (1989)). It is one of the objectives of the present invention to offer a recombinant live carrier that does not have this drawback. It was unexpectedly found, that although the apxIV gene is efficiently expressed in vivo (see Example 5), it is not expressed in vitro (see Example 4). This was concluded from the failure to show the presence of ApxIV toxin in in vitro grown A. pleuropneumoniae cultures. This means that ApxIV expression is switched on or off, depending on the environment in which A. pleuropneumoniae is grown. This feature offers an unexpected advantage over known live recombinant carriers: if the expression of the heterologous gene is brought under the control of the apxIV promoter, the live attenuated P. pleuropneumoniae carrier according to the invention can be grown in vitro to high densities, regardless the inserted heterologous gene, since the foreign gene will not be expressed under these conditions. After administering a number of bacteria to the host, the expression of the heterologous gene will start and at some time during replication or after the death of the bacterium it will become available to the immune system of the host. The heterologous gene to be expressed can be functionally linked to the apxIV promoter by e.g. replacing the coding sequence of the apxIV gene by the coding region of the heterologous gene. It is not necessary to replace the whole apxIV gene: it suffices to replace the ATG-codon of ApxIV by the coding region of the heterologous gene including its stop-codon. It is also possible to express a heterologous gene under the influence of the apxIV promoter by making a fusion construct. This can be made by inserting the heterologous gene in frame with the apxIV reading frame downstream of the apxIV ATG codon.

[0059] The wording “functionally linked to the apxIV promoter” means that transcription of the heterologous gene starts at the apxIV promoter.

[0060] It goes without saying that each location of the inserted heterologous gene in which it is functionally linked to the apxIV promotor falls within the scope of the invention.

[0061] Therefore, the most preferred form of this embodiment relates to live attenuated bacteria according to the present invention, carrying a heterologous gene that is functionally linked to the promotor region of the apxIV gene.

[0062] The surprising finding that the native apxIV promotor is a switchable promotor that is switched off in vitro and switched on in vivo makes this promotor a very versatile expresion tool both in it's natural host and as a heterologous promotor in other bacteria. When used as a heterologous promotor in other bacteria, the DNA comprising the promotor can be isolated from its host and transferred to a bacterium other than Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae. Another option that has now become feasible, is the cloning of several copies of the apxIV promotor each controlling the expression of another gene. This can be done in the host bacterium Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, but this principle of multiple copies is equally applicable to other bacteria. As mentioned above, the promotor can be used for the selective in vivo expression of one or more heterologous genes encoding antigens selected from other pathogenic micro-organisms or viruses. The promotor can also be used for the expression of a heterologous DNA sequence encoding a cytokine such as an interleukin, Tumor Necrosis Factor or an interferon. Several cytokines, e.g. interferons are known to play an important role as immune modulators. Thus it may be advantageous to express such genetic information under the control of the apxIV promotor.

[0063] Therefore, another embodiment of the invention relates to a nucleofide sequence harbouring the promotor controling the expression of the apxIV gene.

[0064] The switchable promotor that in the native situation controls the expression of the apxIV gene, was now found to be located in the DNA fragment between position 451 and 1132 of SEQ ID NO: 5. It is dear, that those parts of this DNA fragment that are not essential promotor elements need not necessarily be present in the fragment. Thus, shorter fragments of this DNA fragment in which the promotor activity is retained, are equally suitable for the expression of heterologous genes. Therefore, a more preferred form of this embodiment relates to a nucleotide sequence comprising the DNA fragment from position 451 to 1132 of SEQ ID NO: 5 or a subfragment thereof still having promotor activity.

[0065] Bacterial promoters all share two consensus regions, the so-called −10 and the −35 region. Although the flanking sequence of these consensus regions may to a certain extend influence the efficiency of the promotor, it can be advantageous to use only that part of the promotor region that comprises the DNA fragment between −35 and the ATG codon. This DNA fragment is located between position 617 and position 641 of SEQ ID NO: 5.

[0066] Therefore, in a more preferred form of this embodiment the invention relates to a nucleotide sequence comprising the DNA fragment from position 617 to 641 of SEQ ID NO: 5.

[0067] The present invention also relates to ApxIV toxin as a subunit vaccine component. Subunit vaccines will most probably comprise the three known Apx-toxins. This was mentioned above. Since it was unexpectedly found, that the ApxIV toxin is however present in all A. pleuropneumoniae serotypes as mentioned above, it is a desirable additional component of subunit vaccines: neutralising antibodies raised against the ApxIV toxin provide protection against the ApxIV toxin produced by each and every Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae strain, regardless the serotype. Therefore, another embodiment of the invention relates to subunit vaccines for the protection of animals against infection with a bacterium of the species Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, that comprise purified ApxIV toxin. The ApxIV toxin can be administered alone, or in combination with any or all of the toxins ApxI, -II and -III mentioned above and/or e.g. in combination with Outer Membrane Proteins (OMPs) of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae. Such vaccines can easily be prepared by admixing ApxIV toxin in an amount sufficient to induce an immune response, and a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier. Production of the ApxIV toxin is possible by introducing the apxIV gene in a suitable expression vector, expression of the gene and isolation of the toxin. Many versatile expression systems are known in the art, such as bacterial expression systems, baculovirus expression systems and mammalian cell expression systems. In Example 3 it is described how to obtain the ApxIV toxin by expression of the gene in E. coli.

[0068] Still another embodiment of the invention relates to live attenuated vaccines comprising live attenuated bacteria as described above for the protection of animals against infection with a bacterium of the species Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae. Such vaccines can be obtained by admixing live attenuated bacteria with a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier. These vaccines comprise at least an immunogenically effective amount of the live attenuated producing bacterium according to the invention. Immunogenically effective means that the amount of live attenuated bacterium administered at the moment of vaccination is sufficient to induce in the host an effective immune response to virulent forms of the RTX-toxin producing bacterium. The useful dosage to be administered will vary depending on the age, weight and animal vaccinated, the mode of administration and the type of pathogen against which vaccination is sought. The vaccine may comprise any dose of bacteria, sufficient to evoke an immune response. Doses ranging between 103 and 1010 bacteria are e.g. very suitable doses.

[0069] The pharmaceutically acceptable carrier may be as simple as water, but it may e.g. also comprise culture fluid in which the bacteria were cultured. Another suitable carrier is e.g. a solution of physiological salt concentration. Other examples of pharmaceutically acceptable carriers or diluents useful in the present invention include stabilisers such as SPGA, carbohydrates (e.g. sorbitol, mannitol, starch, sucrose, glucose, dextran), proteins such as albumin or casein, protein containing agents such as bovine serum or skimmed milk and buffers (e.g. phosphate buffer).

[0070] Optionally, one or more compounds having adjuvant activity may be added to the vaccine. Adjuvant are non-specific stimulators of the immune system. They enhance the immune response of the host to the invading pathogen. Examples of adjuvantia known in the art are Freunds Complete and Incomplete adjuvans, vitamin E, non-ionic block polymers, muramyldipeptides, ISCOMs (immune stimulating complexes, cf. for instance European Patent EP 109942), Saponins, mineral oil, vegetable oil, and Carbopol (a homopolymer). Adjuvantia, specially suitable for mucosal application are e.g. the E. coli heat-labile toxin (LT) or Cholera toxin (CT).

[0071] Other suitable adjuvants are for example aluminium hydroxide, phosphate or oxide, oil-emulsions (e.g. of Bayol F (R) or Marcol 52 (R), saponins or vitamin-E solubilisate.

[0072] Therefore, in a preferred form, the vaccines according to the present invention comprise an adjuvant.

[0073] For administration to animals, the vaccine according to the presentation can be given inter alia intranasally, intradermally, subcutaneously, by aerosol or intramuscularly.

[0074] There are several ways to store both subunits and live organisms. Storage in a refrigerator is e.g. a well-known method. Also often used is storage at −70° C. in a buffer containing glycerol. Bacteria can also be kept in liquid nitrogen. Freeze-drying is another way of conservation. Freeze-dried bacteria can be stored and kept viable for many years. Storage temperatures for freeze-dried bacteria may well be above zero degrees, without being detrimental to the viability. Freeze-drying is equally applicable for subunits

[0075] Freeze-drying can be done according to all well-known standard freeze-drying procedures. Optional beneficial additives, such as e.g. skimmed milk, trehalose, gelatin or bovine serum albumin can be added in the freeze-drying process.

[0076] Therefore, in a more preferred embodiment, the vaccine according to the present invention is in a freeze-dried form.

[0077] In an even more preferred form of this embodiment, the vaccine additionally comprises one or more antigens selected from other pathogenic micro-organisms or viruses. Such a vaccine can be obtained by adding one or more antigens selected from other pathogenic bacteria or viruses to the live attenuated bacterium according to the invention and a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier as described above.

[0078] Of course, it is possible to add not only one or more antigens, but also one or more of the whole pathogens as such, in an inactivated or live form.

[0079] It can altematively be obtained by cloning the genetic information encoding one or more antigens selected from other pathogenic micro-organisms or viruses into the live attenuated bacterium, using known recombinant DNA technology as described above. Such vaccines are of course less stressing for the animal to be vaccinated than separate vaccinations with each of the pathogens, both from a medical and a physical point of view.

[0080] In a still even more preferred form, these antigens are selected from the group consisting of Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus, Pseudo-rabies virus, Porcine Influenza virus, Porcine Parvovirus, Transmissible Gastroenteritis virus, rotavirus, Escherichia coli, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Pasteurella multocida, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Haemophilus parasuis and Streptococcus suis.

[0081] The invention also relates to methods for the preparation of a live attenuated bacterium of the species Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae that is not capable of producing a functional ApxIV toxin. These method comprise the introduction of a mutation in the gene encoding the apxIV protein. Both classical mutation techniques, using mutagenic agents, and recombinant DNA techniques well-known in the art for insertion, replacement or deletion of genetic information from the apxIV gene are applicable.

[0082] In a preferred form, the above mentioned methods are used for the introduction of a deletion.

[0083] Methods for the preparation of a live attenuated vaccine according to the invention, that comprise admixing bacteria according to the invention with a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier are also part of the invention.

[0084] Also falling within the scope of the invention are methods for the preparation of a subunit vaccine. Such methods comprise the mixing of purified ApxIV toxin with a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier.

[0085] Another generally acknowledged problem in the field of vaccination with live vaccines is the following: the presence of antibodies against a certain pathogen in the serum of a host animalindicates that the host has been infected with the pathogen, either in a virulent or attenuated form. It is however impossible to discriminate between field-infected animals and animals vaccinated with a live vaccine strain. The live attenuated Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae according to the present invention offers a solution to this problem as follows:

[0086] As described in Example 3, the apxIV gene of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae serotype 1 has been isolated and expressed in a heterologous host cell. This expression product was subjected to PAAGE-gelelectroforesis and then used for Westem-blotting. The blots were incubated with convalescent serum obtained from a deliberately Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae-infected pigs, and sera from field-strains. It was found, that the apxIV gene is expressed in vivo in all Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae field strains tested. This implicates, that pigs infected with Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae will always have antibodies against the strain with which they were infected, regardless the serotype of the infectious strain.

[0087] The live attenuated bacteria according to the present invention can, due to the deletion of the apxIV gene, no longer make ApxIV toxin. Therefore animals vaccinated with a live attenuated Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae strain according to the invention will not have antibodies against ApxIV toxin in their serum.

[0088] In a comparative test, e.g. an ELISA test, such sera will therefore react with all immunogenic Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae-proteins such as e.g. ApxI, II and/or III, but not with ApxIV. Sera from pigs infected with an Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae field strain however will react with all immunogenic Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae-proteins, including ApxIV. Therefore, the live attenuated Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae according to the present invention turns out to be a very suitable marker vaccine, i.e. a vaccine strain that can be discriminated from a field strain.

[0089] A diagnostic test for the discrimination between vaccine strains and field strains can be a simple ELISA-test in which purified ApxIV toxin is coated to the wall of the wells of an ELISA-plate. Incubation with serum from pigs to be tested, followed by e.g. incubation with a labelled anti-pig antibody can then reveal the presence or absence of antibodies against ApxIV toxin.

[0090] Another example of a diagnostic test system is e.g. the incubation of a Western blot comprising purified ApxIV toxin with serum of pigs to be tested, followed by detection of specific anti-ApxIV antibodies.

[0091] Therefore, diagnostic test for the discrimination between sera from pigs infected with Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae field strains and from pigs vaccinated with a vaccine comprising live attenuated vaccine Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae strains according to the invention, that comprise purified ApxIV toxin. also fall within the scope of the invention.

[0092] Still another problem seen in pig health care is the following: It is difficult to determine in a both quick and unambiguous manner if a pig is infected with Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae or A. suis, or possibly a combination of both. Diagnostic tests for the specific detection of A. suis are currently not available. This is mainly due to the fact that A. pleuropneumoniae and A. suis share so many antigens. As an example may serve, that two highly antigenic Apx-toxins; ApxI and ApxII have highly conserved homologues in e.g. A. suis (Van Ostaayen et al., submitted for publication).

[0093] The known RTX-genes, encoding the ApxI, -II and -III toxins or homologues are found in practically all members of the genus Actinobacillus, such as A. pleuropneumoniae, A. suis, A. rossii and A. equuli. Thus, it was initially assumed by the inventors, that the new RTX-toxin ApxIV would also be common to all members of the genus Actinobacillus.

[0094] It was however found after testing a the swine-pathogenic Actinobacillus, again surprisingly in contrast with the known three RTX-genes, that this novel RTX-gene apxIV is only present in the swine-pathogen Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae. It is absent in all other common swine pathogenic Actinobacillus species, and therefore it is also absent in Actinobacillus suis. See Example 6 and 7.

[0095] Therefore, it was surprisingly noticed that the presence of antibodies against ApxIV in the serum of a pig is a quick and unambiguous proof that the pig has been infected with A. pleuropneumoniae, and not with A. suis or any other swine-pathogen Actinobacillus species.

[0096] Thus the present invention also provides a diagnostic test based on the presence or absence of antibodies against ApxIV, and therefore a discriminating test for specifically distinguishing an infection with A. pleuropneumoniae from an infection with A. suis Such a test can e.g. be an ELISA test that comprises in separate wells the ApxI and -II, toxins, present in both A. pleuropneumoniae and A. suis and the purified ApxIV toxin. Serum from A. suis-infected animals will react only with the wells comprising the ApxI and -II whereas A. pleuropneumoniae-infected animals will also react with the well comprising the purified ApxIV toxin.

EXAMPLE 1

Cloning and Analysis of the ApxIV Gene of A. pleuropneumoniae Serotype 1

[0097] Standard molecular biological procedures (plasmid DNA isolation, restriction digestion, agarose gel electrophoresis, Southern blotting, ligation, transformation, electroporation) were, unless stated otherwise, essentially performed as described in Sambrook et al. (Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., 1989) or Ausubel et al., (Current Protocols in Molecular Biology. John Wiley & Sons, N.Y., 1987). PCR was performed essentially as described in Innis et al., (PCR protocols, A guide to Methods and Applications, Academic Press Inc., San Diego, 1990). Chromosomal DNA isolation was performed according to Pitcher et al., (Left. Appl. Microbiol., 8;151-156, 1989). The origin of all A. pleuropneumoniae reference strains (serotype 1: strain 4074; serotype 2: strain S1536: serotype 3: S1421; serotype 4 M62; serotype 5a: K17; serotype 5b: L20; serotype 6: femø; serotype 7: WF83; serotype 8: 405; serotype 9: CV113261; serotype 10: 13039; serotype 11: 56153 and serotype 12: 8329) is described by Frey and Nicolet, (J. Clin. Microbiol., 28;232-236, 1990). A. pleuropneumoniae serotype 3 strain HV114 is a field isolate (i.e. one of the serotype 3 strains tested in Beck et al., J. Clin. Microbiol., 32;2749-2754, 1994). Other Actinobacillus strains used; A. rossii: ATCC 27072; A. equuli: ATCC 19392; A. suis: ATCC 15558. Pasteurella haemolytica type 1 strain ATCC 14003 was used.

[0098] E. coli host strains used: XL1-blue (Stratagene, La Yolla, Ca; genotype: recA1 endA1 gyrA96 thi-1 hsdR17 supE44 relA1 lac [F′ proAB laclqZDM15 Tn10 (Tetr)]) and HMS174(DE3) (AMS Biotechnology Ltd, Switzerland; genotype: F recA (rK,12− mK12+) rifr IDE3).

[0099] On the basis of the preliminary sequence data obtained from the thesis of T. J. Anderson (University of Guelph, 1995) two primers, designated APXIVA-1L (5′-TGGCACTGACGGTGATGA-3′) and APXIVA-1R (5′-GGCCATCGACTCAACCAT-3′), were synthesised. These primers were used in a PCR amplification, with chromosomal DNA from A. pleuropneumoniae serotype 3 strain HV114 and serotype 1 reference strain 4074 as a template. With both strains a fragment of 442 bp was amplified. The fragment derived from the serotype 3 chromosomal DNA was labelled with Digoxigenin-11-dUTP (Boehringer Mannheim) according to the protocol of the manufacturer (this fragment was designated probe APXIVA, see FIG. 4). The labelled probe was subsequently used to hybridize a Southern blot containing ClaI digested chromosomal DNA from strain 4074. The probe hybridised with a fragment of approximately 8.0 kb. The apxIV gene from serotype 1 strain 4074 was isolated by ligating ClaI digested chromosomal DNA into ClaI digested pBluescript 11 SK′ (Stratagene USA). E. coli strain XL1-blue was transformed with the ligated DNA and transformants were selected on an LB plate with 100 mg/ml of ampicillin. Clones harbouring the apxIV were selected by colony hybridisation of a nitrocellulose replica of the plate with the APXIVA probe. Thus, a plasmid designated pROK7 was isolated and shown to harbour a ClaI insert of approximately 8 kb. The first 6736 bp of the ClaI insert were sequenced (SEQID 1) and an open reading frame of 4971 nucleotides was identified encoding a protein of 1657 amino acid residues (SEQID 2) with a predicted size of approximately 186 kD. The gene was designated apxIV_var1 (see FIG. 3).

EXAMPLE 2

Cloning and Analysis of the ApxIV Gene of A. pleuropneumoniae Serotype 3

[0100] The labelled probe APXIVA (mentioned in example 1) was used to hybridize a Southern blot containing ClaI digested chromosomal DNA from strain HV114. The probe hybridised with a fragment of approximately 7.0 kb. The isolated chromosomal DNA from HV114 was digested with ClaI, and ligated with ClaI digested pBluescript 11 SK′ (Stratagene USA). E. coli strain XL1-blue was transformed with the ligated DNA and transformants were selected on an LB plate with 100 mg/ml of ampicillin. Clones harbouring the apxIV were selected by colony hybridisation of a nitrocellulose replica of the plate with the APXIVA probe. Thus, a plasmid designated pROK5 was isolated and shown to harbour a ClaI insert of approximately 7 kb. The insert was analysed by sequence analysis (SEQID 3). An open reading frame of 4146 bp was identified encoding a protein of 1382 amino acid residues (SEQID 4), with a predicted size of approximately 154 kD. The gene was designated apxIV_var3 (see FIG. 3).

EXAMPLE 3

EXPRESSION OF ApxIV Var3-polyhistidine Fusion Proteins in E. coli

[0101] From plasmid pROK5, a deletion clone was made which contains the 3′ end of the apxIV gene, starting at the BamHI site (nucleotide No. 2747 in SEQ ID No: 3) up to the ClaI site at the end of the insert downstream of the apxIV gene. This plasmid was designated pROK1. Using oligonucleotides APXIVAHIS1-L (5′-AGCCATATGGGCGATTTAAATTTCAG-3′) and APXIVAHIS1-R (5′-TATGGATCCTCCGTGCTTCTGAGC-3′) and DNA from plasmid pROK1 as a template, a DNA fragment of 2.1 kb was amplified (see FIG. 4) containing the region from bp 3520 to 5643 in apxIV_var3 (SEQID 3) flanked with NdeI and BamHI restriction sites at the 5′ and 3′ end respectively. After cloning of the NdeI/BamHI digested PCR fragment in expression vector pETHIS-1, digested with the same enzymes, a plasmid designated pJFFapxIV6/10his-1 was obtained. Plasmid pETHIS-1 is a derivative of pET14b (Novagen Inc., Madison, Wis.) where the multiple cloning site has been extended and a region encoding a histidine decamer has been inserted. Consequently, The pJFFapxIV6/10his-1 plasmid contains a translational fusion encoding a histidine hexamer, followed by amino acid residues 653 up to 1360 from SEQID 4, followed by a histidine decamer, under the control of a T7 promoter. The plasmid was transferred to E. coli strain HMS174(DE3) with pLysS, which contains an IPTG inducible T7 RNA polymerase gene as well as the T7 lysozyme gene for increased stability. The strain was grown in LB medium containing 25 mg/ml of chloramphenicol and 100 mg/ml of ampicillin, up to an OD650 of 0.5, and induced with isopropyl -b-D-thiogalactopyranoside at a concentration of 10 mM. After the addition of IPTG, the cells were incubated at 37° C. for 2.5 hours, the cells were harvested by centrifugation, and fusion protein with the expected size of 80 kD was isolated in the form of inclusion bodies. The inclusion bodies were solubilized in a solution of 6M guanidine hydrochloride, 300 mM NaCl and 50 mM NaH2PO4 at pH 8.0 and the 80 kD fusion protein was further purified by Immobilised Metal Affinity Chromatography (IMAC) (Schmitt et al., Molecular Biology Reports 18;223-230, 1993) using Ni2+ chelated columns (Qiagen AG, Basel). Pure protein was eluted from the column at pH 5.0. Pooled fractions were dialysed against a solution of 300 mM NaCl and 50 mM NaH2PO4 at pH 8.0. A rabbit was immunised with 500 mg of the polyhistidine fusion product, mixed with 1 volume of Complete Freunds Adjuvant (Difco Labs, Detroit, Mich.). A booster dose of the same amount, mixed with incomplete Freund Adjuvant was given 3 weeks later. Four weeks after the booster, the rabbit was bled and a hyperimmune serum comprising anti-ApxIV toxin antibodies, designated serum 522-409, was obtained.

EXAMPLE 4

Expression of ApxIV Genes in in vitro Grown A. pleuropneumoniae

[0102] The A. pleurapneumoniae reference strain from serotype 1 was grown in Columbia broth supplemented with 10 mg/ml of b-NAD and harvested as described (Beck et al., J. Clin. Microbiol., 32;2749-2754, 1994). Adjacent to lanes comprising ApxIA, ApxIIA and ApxIVA-polyhistdine fusion proteins the concentrated culture supematant was separated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (Laemmli, Nature 227:680-685, 1970) and subjected to a Western blotting procedure (Towbin et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 76:4350-4354, 1979). The Western blot was reacted with anti-ApxIA- and anti-ApxIIA monoclonal antibodies as described by Beck et al., (J. Clin. Microbiol., 32;2749-2754, 1994), and with antApxIV serum 522409 (see example 3). The isolated RTX toxin fraction of serotype 1 clearly contains ApxIA and ApxIIA. The presence of ApxIVA could not be demonstrated (see FIG. 5).

EXAMPLE 5

Expression of ApxIV Genes in A. pleuropneumoniae in vivo During Infection

[0103] A polyacrylamide gel containing the 80 kD polyhistidine-ApxIV_var3 fusion protein (see example 3) was transferred to a nitrocellulose membrane. The membrane was divided into strips which were reacted with (100-fold dilutions on convalescent field sera against serotype 1 or sera from a pig, experimentally infected with the serotype 1 reference strain (Frey and Nicolet, Vet. Microbiol., 28;61-73, 1991). The reaction was visualised using alkaline phosphatase-labelled conjugate against rabbit IgG (Kirkegaard Perry Inc., Gaithersburg, Md.) and NBT (4-Nitrobluetetrazolium chloride) and BCIP (5-Bromo4-chloro-3-indolyl-phosphate) colour development (see FIG. 6). The serotype 1 field sera, as well as serum from the experimentally infected pig react with the 80 kD polyhistidine-ApxIV_var3 protein. This indicates that the ApxIV protein actually is expressed, is antigenic and induces anti-ApxIV toxin antibodies during A. pleuropneumoniae infection in pigs.

EXAMPLE 6

Presence of ApxIV Genes in all A. pleuropneumoniae Serotypes and the Absence thereof in Non-pleuropneumoniae Actinobacillus-strains using Southern Blotting

[0104] To investigate the presence of the apxIV gene in the various A.pleuropneumoniae serotypes and related bacteria, three probes were made (see FIG. 4). Probe APXIVA is described in example 1. Probe APXIVA2 contains the 2015 bp DNA fragment between the BamHI and NurI sites. The 758 bp probe APPIVA1 was made by PCR amplification with oligos APPIV1-L (5′-GGGACAGTGGCTCAATTAAG-3′) and (APPIV1-R (5′-AGCTGTAAACTCCACCAACG-3′). All probes were labelled with Digoxigenin-11-dUTP (Boehringer Mannheim) according to the protocol of the manufacturer and hybridised with Southern blots containing ClaI digested chromosomal DNA of all A. pleuropneumoniae reference strains and the HV114 field strain, Actinobacillus suis (ATCC 15558), Actinobacillus rossii (ATCC 27072) and Actinobacillus equuli (ATCC 19392). All three probes react similarly (see FIG. 7 for the results with the APXIVA2 probe). All A. pleuropneumoniae strains react, whereas no hybridisation is observed with the A. suis, A. equuli and A. rossii strains.

EXAMPLE 7

Presence of ApxIV Genes in A. pleuropneumoniae and Related Strains Using PCR Amplification

[0105] With 50 ng of chromosomal DNA from the various A. pleuropneumoniae serotypes, other Actinobacillus species and P. haemolytica as templates, and primers APXIVA-1L (5′-TGGCACTGACGGTGATGA-3′) and APXIVA-1R (5′-GGCCATCGACTCAACCAT-3′) PCR amplification was performed. After analysis of the products on an agarose gel, products with the expected size of 442 bp were observed in all A. pleuropneumoniae samples, but in none of the other Actinobacillus species (FIG. 8). This indicates that in addition to the results in example 6, also PCR could be used to discriminate A. pleuropneumoniae from other Actinobacillus species.

EXAMPLE 8

Overexpression of ApxIV-var1 Polyhistidine Fusion Protein

[0106] Starting with plasmid pROK-7 (see example 1) as a template and oligonucleotides APX4/II5-L (5′-CGCCATATGACAAAATTAACTATGCAAG) and APX4II6-R (5′-CGCGAATTCAGCGACACAAGAGATAT) as PCR-primers, a PCR fragment was amplified. A sufficient amount of this fragment was then digested with restriction enzymes NdeI and EcoRI and cloned in expression vector pETHIS-1, digested with the same enzymes as described in Example 3. From the resulting plasmid, designated pJFFApxIVA1His1, a 206 kD polyhistidine fusion protein (MW determined in PAGE) of 1841 amino acid residues was overexpressed in E. coli as described in Example 3. The protein is encoded in the coding region spanning nucleic acid no. 1132 to 6546 as depicted in SEQ ID NO: 5. The amino acid sequence of the protein in given in SEQ ID NO: 6. In Westem blot this product was shown to react with specific anti-ApxIV serum 522-409 (antiserum described in example 3).

EXAMPLE 9

Protection of Mice by Vaccination with ApxIV Against APP Challenge

[0107] The 206 kD polyhistidine-ApxIV fusion protein as described in Example 8 and a comparable 108 kD polyhistidine-ApxIA-fusion protein, both derived from serotype 1 reference strain 4074 genomic material, were overexpressed as described in example 3. The cell pellet of induced E. coli cells was resuspended into PBS buffer (1 g. cell pellet in 6 ml buffer) and sonicated on ice for two times 45 seconds on ice for lysis of the cells. After centrifugation for 20 minutes at 22.000×g at 4° C., the supematant was discarded and the resulting pellet was washed with a solution of 3M urea (pH 6.3). The urea was removed after centrifugation for 20 minutes at 22.000×g, and the resulting pellet was solubilized in 6M GuanidiniumHCI (pH 8.0). The protein samples were standardised by specific protein content after densitometry of PAGE gels. The samples were diluted with PBS and formulated with an oil adjuvant.

[0108] Three groups of 15 mice each, were intraperitoneally immunised with the ApxIV antigen (36.3 microgram), ApxIA antigen (36.3 microgram), or the adjuvant alone. The vaccines were administered in a volume of 0.4 ml. Twenty-four days after the first vaccination, each group of mice was split in two groups of 7 and 8 mice which were boosted with half the amount of antigen. The groups of 7 mice were boosted intraperitoneally in a volume of 0.2 ml and the groups of 8 mice were vaccinated intramuscularly with 0.1 ml in each hind leg. Thirteen days after the booster, the mice were challenged intraperitoneally with 1.5 108 cfu of a virulent serotype 1 strain.

EXAMPLE 10

Poreforming Capacity of ApxIV

[0109] Freshly induced E. coli cells expressing ApxIV were used as the source of protein for testing poreformation in artificial lipid bilayers as described by Maier et al., Infect. Immun., 64; 4415-4423(1996). The methods used for black lipid bilayer experiments have been described previously (Benz et al.; Biochim. Biophys. Acta 511: 305-319 (1978)). Membranes were formed from a 1% solution of asolectin (soybean lecitin type IV-S from Sigma, St. Louis Mo.) in n-decane. Zero current membrane potentials were measured with a Keithley 610 C electrometer 5-10 min. after a 10-fold salt gradient was established across the membranes (Benz et al.; Biochim. Biophys. Acta 551: 238-247 (1979)). The presence of ApxIV resulted in a high frequency of pore formation in the presence of 0.5% cholesterol, with an average single channel conductance (G) of 4 nS.

[0110] These results indicate that the ApxIV induces pores into artificial bilayers and is therefore toxic to eukaryotic cells and thus is a virulence factor for A. pleuropneumoniae.

Legend to the Figures

[0111] FIG. 1: Comparison of ApxIVAvar1 and ApxIVAvar3 (var stands for serotype). Graphic representation of the different features found in the C-terminal end. Dashed boxes represent the direct repeat regions in ApxIVA. Bold vertical bars indicate the position of glycine rich nonapeptides, and DNA polymerase family B signatures are indicated by black triangles. The amino acid sequence YSDSANSKK represents the spacer sequence in the ApxIVAvar3 gene. The sequence segment of ApxIVAvar1 which is deleted in ApxIVAvar3 is also indicated in the figure.

[0112] FIG. 2: Alignment of the amino acid sequences of direct repeat 1 (A), direct repeat 2 (B) and direct repeat 3 (C) of ApxIVAvar1 and ApxIVAvar3. The copies of each of the direct repeats 1, 2 and 3 are labeled by letters to distinguish them for the sequence comparison. Variant residues are shown in bold letters.

[0113] FIG. 3: Partial restriction maps of pBLac7 (Thesis of T. J. Anderson University of Guelph, 1995), pROK7 and pROK5. The different open reading frames (ORF's) are indicated by arrows. The interrupted arrow of lacZ in pROK7 indicates partial sequencing of the gene. Potential rho-independent transcription terminators are indicated (M). Potential transcription start sites are indicated by a triangle. Restriction sites: A=Asp700; B=BamHI; C=ClaI; E=EcoRV; Ec=EcoRI; H=HindIII; N=NruI; Nd=NdeI; Nh=NheI; P=PstI; S=SpeI; Sm=SmaI.

[0114] FIG. 4: Location of the various oligonucleotides and probes on the map of the apxIVAvar3 gene.

[0115] FIG. 5: Expression of ApxIV in in vitro cultivated serotype 1 reference strain 4074. Panel A was reacted with the anti-ApxIA monoclonal antibody, panel B with anti-ApxIIA monoclonal antibody and panel C was reacted with anti-ApxIVA serum 522-409. Lane 1 contains ApxIA-polyhistidine fusion protein, lane 2 contains ApxIIA-polyhistidine fusion protein, lane 3 contains strain 4074 concentrated culture supematant, lane 4 contains ApxIVA polyhistidine fusion protein.

[0116] FIG. 6: Immunoblot showing the reactivities of sera from pigs which were experimentally infected with the reference strain of serotype 1 (lane 1) or pig sera from serotype 1 field infections (lane 2-4) with the 80 kD polyhistidine-ApxIV fusion protein. As a positive control (+), serum 522-409 was used, as a negative control (−), polyclonal rabbit serum against ApxI and ApxII (Frey et al., Infect. Immun., 57;2050-2056, 1989) was used as a 1000-fold dilution.

[0117] FIG. 7: Southern blot of ClaI digested genomic DNA hybridised with probe APXIVA2. Lanes 1-13: A. pleuropneumoniae reference strains; 1: serotype 1; 2: serotype 2; 3: serotype 3; 4: serotype 4; 5: serotype 5a; 6: serotype 5b; 7: serotype 6; 8: serotype 7; 9: serotype 8; 10: serotype 9; 11: serotype 10; 12: serotype 11; 13: serotype 12; 14: HV114 field strain; 15: A. suis (ATCC 15558); 16: A. rossii (ATCC 27072); 17: A. equuli (ATCC 19392). Molecular size markers are indicated (in kilobasepairs) on the left.

[0118] FIG. 8: PCR amplification of apxIV using primers APXIVA-1L and APXIVA-1R. Lane assignments: lanes 1 to 13 contain the A. pleuropneumoniae reference strains from serotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5b, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 respectively; lane 14: strain HV114; lane 15: A. suis ATCC 15558; lane 16: A. rossii ATCC 27072; lane 17: A. equuli ATCC 19392; lane 18: A. lignieresii ATCC 49236; lane 19: P. haemolytica type 1 ATCC 14003. Molecular size markers (in kilobasepairs) are indicated on the left.