Diversity and partial characterization of putative virulence determinants in Pasteuria penetrans, the hyperparasitic bacterium of root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.)
Antigens recognized by monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) raised to the surface of the obligate nematode hyperparasite Pasteuria penetrans were characterized. Using the attachment of spores of the bacterium to host nematodes to determine the biological variability present on the spore surface greatly underestimated the amount of surface heterogeneity present compared with estimates from immunological techniques. This heterogeneity differed not only between different individual spores from the same population but also between different spore populations. None of the Mabs completely inhibited any spore population from attaching to the nematode cuticle, suggesting that the mechanism of attachment may be more complex than previously supposed. Chemical degradation of one particular epitope recognized by monoclonal antibody PP1/117, and designated ep117, occurred after treatment with NaOH, periodate or Proteinase K, suggesting that an O-linked glycoprotein may be involved. Fibronectin, which had been found to bind to Pasteuria spores through hydrophobic interactions, also prohibited the Mab from recognizing ep117. However, SDS-PAGE of spore extracts followed by immunoblotting showed that none of the Mabs could detect this epitope and so ep117 may be conformational in nature. Thus, the conformation of any particular epitope recognized by a Mab may be important in determining to which nematode a particular spore will attach. The distribution of a particular epitope within a population of spores will in turn therefore determine its virulence on a particular nematode.