Four monoclonal antibodies that are directed against antigens present in sperm and absent from other worm tissues were characterized. Antibody TR20 is directed against the major sperm proteins, a family of small, abundant, cytoplasmic proteins that have been previously described (Klass, M. R., and D. Hirsh, 1981, Dev. Biol., 84:299-312; Burke, D. J., and S. Ward, 1983, J. Mol. Biol., 171:1-29). Three other antibodies, SP56, SP150, and TR11, are all directed against the same set of minor sperm polypeptides that range in size from 29 to 215 kD. More than eight different sperm polypeptides are antigenic by both immunotransfer and immunoprecipitation assays. The three antibodies are different immunoglobulin subclasses, yet they compete with each other for antigen binding so they are directed against the same antigenic determinant on the multiple sperm proteins. This antigenic determinant is sensitive to any of six different proteases, is insensitive to periodate oxidation or N-glycanase digestion, and is detectable on a polypeptide synthesized in vitro. Therefore, the antigenic determinant resides in the polypeptide chain. However, peptide fragments of the proteins are not antigenic, thus the determinant is likely to be dependent on polypeptide conformation. The antigenic determinant shared by these proteins could represent a common structural feature of importance to the localization or cellular specificity of these proteins.

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