The recent determination of the entire antigenic structure of sperm-whale myoglobin with rabbit and goat antisera has permitted the examination of whether the antigenic structure recognized by antibodies depends on the species in which the antisera are raised. Also, by knowledge of the antigenic structure, the molecular factors that determine and influence antigenicity can be better understood in terms of the effects of amino acid substitutions occurring in the antigenic sites and in the environmental residues of the sites. In the present work, the myoglobins from finback whale, killer whale, horse, chimpanzee, sheep, goat, bovine, echidna, viscacha, rabbit, dog, cape fox, mouse and chicken were examined for their ability to cross-react with antisera to sperm-whale myoglobin. By immunoadsorbent titration studies with radioiodinated antibodies, each of these myoglobins was able to bind antibodies to sperm-whale myoglobin raised in goat, rabbit, chicken, cat, pig and outbred mouse. It was found that the extent of cross-reaction of a given myoglobin was not dependent on the species in which the antisera were raised. This indicated that the antibody response to sperm-whale myoglobin (i.e. its antigenic structure) is independent of the species in which the antisera are raised and is not directed to regions of sequence differences between the injected myoglobin and the myoglobin of the immunized host. Indeed, in each antiserum from a given species examined, that antiserum reacted with the myoglobin of that species. The extent of this auto-reactivity for a given myoglobin was comparable with the general extent of cross-reactivity shown by that myoglobin with antisera raised in other species. The cross-reactivities and auto-reactivities (both of which are of similar extents for a given myoglobin) can be reasonably rationalized in terms of the effects of amino acid substitutions within the antigenic sites and within the residues close to these sites. These findings confirm that the antigenicity of the sites is inherent in their three-dimensional locations.

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