Seven highly purified degradation products of penicillin G (PG) were examined with regard to their ability to cross-react allergically with PG. Guinea pig allergic contact dermatitis was employed as the test system. Three of these degradation products, D-benzylpenicillenic acid (BPE), D-penicillamine, and D-α-benzylpenicilloic acid were found to cross-react with PG and also to be capable of inducing delayed contact allergy in the guinea pig. BPE and PG cross-reacted with particularly intense reactions, and other immunologic experiments indicated that PG and BPE introduce identical allergic determinant groups into epidermal proteins.
These experimental results were correlated with the results of previous studies concerning the degradation pathways of PG under physiological conditions in vitro, and the chemical reactivities of these degradation products.
Based on these immunologic and chemical data, a schema is proposed which suggests the chemical pathways by which PG may react with epidermal proteins in vivo to form the penicillin antigen. The identity of the specific antigenic determinant groups of the penicillin antigen is suggested.
The relationship between PG allergy of the contact dermatitis type in the guinea pig and PG allergy of the immediate type in man is discussed.