Immuno-detection of anthrose containing tetrasaccharide in the exosporium of Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus cereus strains


Gerd Pluschke, Molecular Immunology, Swiss Tropical Institute, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland. E-mail:


Aims: Bacillus anthracis strains of various origins were analysed with the view to describe intrinsic and persistent structural components of the Bacillus collagen-like protein of anthracis glycoprotein associated anthrose containing tetrasaccharide in the exosporium.

Methods and Results:  The tetrasaccharide consists of three rhamnose residues and an unique monosaccharide – anthrose. As anthrose was not found in spores of related strains of bacteria, we envisioned the detection of B. anthracis spores based on antibodies against anthrose-containing polysaccharides. Carbohydrate–protein conjugates containing the synthetic tetrasaccharide, an anthrose–rhamnose disaccharide or anthrose alone were employed to immunize mice. All three formulations were immunogenic and elicited IgG responses with different fine specificities. All sera and monoclonal antibodies derived from tetrasaccharide immunized mice cross-reacted not only with spore lysates of a panel of virulent B. anthracis strains, but also with some of the B. cereus strains tested.

Conclusions:  Our results demonstrate that antibodies to synthetic carbohydrates are useful tools for epitope analyses of complex carbohydrate antigens and for the detection of particular target structures in biological specimens.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  Although not strictly specific for B. anthracis spores, antibodies against the tetrasaccharide may have potential as immuno-capturing components for a highly sensitive spore detection system.