The determination of the entire antigenic structure of myoglobin has made it possible to focus attention on the molecular factors controlling and influencing immune recognition. Recently, using antisera raised against sperm-whale myoglobin (Mb) in six different host species and investigating their reactions with Mb from 15 species, we showed that the binding capacity of an antigenic site is influenced by substitutions within site residues as well as within the residues close (within 6.0 Å to the sites. Based on these effects it was possible to correlate, at least in qualitative terms, the expected effects of the substitutions in each Mb and its observed cross-reaction with antisera to sperm-whale Mb. In the present work, these correlations were tested using sperm-whale Mb antibodies raised in four inbred mouse strains and in which the amount of antibodies directed to each antigenic site was determined. The amounts of 125I-labelled antibodies that could be bound maximally by each of 12 Mb variants were determined. Because of genetic control, the response to some antigenic sites was not expressed and therefore permitted us to evaluate with a good degree of confidence the effects of amino acid replacements in various myoglobins upon the reactivity of the sites. The values of cross-reactions expected for each Mb variant from these considerations agreed well with the values found experimentally. The results confirm unambiguously that the major factors affecting the cross-reactions of proteins can be attributed to substitutions within the sites and within environmental residues of the sites.
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