The 28-kDa immunodominant outer membrane proteins (P28 OMPs) of Ehrlichia chaffeensis are encoded by a multigene family. As an indirect measure of the in vivo expression of the members of thep28 multigene family of E. chaffeensis, sera from two beagle dogs experimentally infected with E. chaffeensis were evaluated for the presence of specific antibodies to P28 OMPs by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Antigenic peptides unique to each of the P28s were identified within the first hypervariable region of each P28 OMP. Serological responses to peptides derived from all P28 OMPs were detected from day 30 postinoculation to day 468 and from day 46 until day 159 in the two beagles. Although antibody titers to the peptides fluctuated, the peak response to all of the peptides appeared simultaneously in each dog. The antibody responses to another outer membrane protein of E. chaffeensis (GP120) showed similar temporal and quantitative changes. These data suggest that the P28 OMPs are expressed concurrently during persistent Ehrlichia infection.
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