A virulent strain of Photobacterium damselae subsp. piscicida (Pdp) was grown without (C form) or with (C+ form) glucose supplementation, the latter to enhance capsule formation. Both forms were resistant to killing by normal serum of seabream, red porgy and seabass. However, the C form was killed by immune serum of all three fish species while the C+ form was killed only by seabream and red porgy sera and to a lesser extent than the C form.
Both C and C+ forms consumed complement in normal serum and this consumption was enhanced by precoating the bacteria in specific fish antibody. Complement consumption was greatest in seabass serum, especially with antibody-coated C+ form yet in this case the bacteria were not killed.
The killing of the C form in immune serum of all three fish species was completely inhibited by EGTA/Mg2+, indicating that the mechanism of complement activation leading to killing of the bacteria was by the classical pathway.
The results suggest that immune serum killing by the classical complement pathway may provide some degree of protection against pasteurellosis, but enhanced expression of the capsule by Pdp in vivo may restrict complement-mediated killing, especially in immunised seabass.