The excitable ciliary membrane of Paramecium regulates the direction of the ciliary beat, and thereby the swimming behavior of this organism. One approach to the problem of identifying the molecular components of the excitable membrane is to use antibodies as probes of function. We produced rabbit antisera against isolated ciliary membranes and against partially purified immobilization antigens derived from three serotypes (A, B, and H), and used these antisera as reagents to explore the role of specific membrane proteins in the immobilization reaction and in behavior. The immobilization characteristics and serotype cross-reactivities of the antisera were examined. We identified the antigens recognized by these sera using immunodiffusion and immunoprecipitation with 35S-labeled ciliary membranes. The major antigen recognized in homologous combinations of antigen-antiserum is the immobilization antigen (i-antigen), approximately 250,000 mol wt. Several secondary antigens, including a family of polypeptides of 42,000-45,000 mol wt, are common to the membranes of serotypes A, B, and H, and antibodies against these secondary antigens can apparently immobilize cells. This characterization of antiserum specificity has provided the basis for our studies on the effects of the antibodies on electrophysiological properties of cells and electron microscopic localization studies, which are reported in the accompanying paper. We have also used these antibodies to study the mechanism of cell immobilization by antibodies against the i-antigen. Monovalent fragments (Fab) against purified i-antigens bound to, but did not immobilize, living cells. Subsequent addition of goat anti-Fab antibodies caused immediate immobilization, presumably by cross-linking Fab fragments already bound to the surface. We conclude that antigen-antibody interaction per se is not sufficient for immobilization, and that antibody bivalency, which allows antigen cross-linking, is essential.

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