The humoral immune response of three alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra), two alpine ibex (Capra ibex ibex) and three domestic sheep naturally affected with infectious keratoconjunctivitis (IKC), and four ibex and two sheep experimentally infected with Mycoplasma conjunctivae was analysed. In addition, the local immune response to M. conjunctivae was analysed using conjunctival washes from chamois and sheep. Immunoblot analysis of sera using whole cell antigens of M. conjunctivae revealed the major immunogenic proteins which had molecular masses of 175, 83, 68, 60, 50, 42, 36, and 33 kDa. Major antigens were found at 83, 68, 60, and 42 kDa in both sera and conjunctival washes from naturally infected animals of all three Caprinae species. In experimentally infected animals, antibodies to the 68 and 60 kDa antigens were dominant. Naturally infected animals showed much stronger immune reactions than those experimentally infected, and specific antibodies appeared 2 to 4 wk after experimental infection. To evaluate possible cross-reactions, whole cell antigen of M. conjunctivae was analysed by immunoblot against hyperimmune sera of closely related Mycoplasma spp. Antibodies to the 175, 73, 68, 60, and 33 kDa antigens appeared to be specific to M. conjunctivae. Cross-reactions mainly with 83, 50, and 42 kDa antigens were detected, in particular with M. ovipneumoniae and M. bovoculi hyperimmune sera, but also with antisera against M. capricolum capricolum and M. putrefaciens.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2