Bovine glucagon, a polypeptide of 29 amino acids, was immunogenic in guinea pigs. The immunologic determinants of glucagon were investigated using isolated tryptic peptides of the hormone. Antibodies from virtually all of more than two dozen animals had specificity primarily for the amino-terminal heptadecapeptide (NM) and showed little or no binding with the carboxy-terminal undeca- and dodecapeptides (C). The smallest synthetic peptide of a series initiated at residue 16 which measurably bound antibody comprised residues 5–16 of glucagon.
In cellular immune assays, both NM and C elicited delayed cutaneous reactions and inhibited the migration of peritoneal cells from immune animals. However, only intact glucagon and its C fragment stimulated lymphoid cells to synthesize DNA. While glucagon was somewhat more active than C, the addition of NM to C did not enhance its transforming activity. The smallest synthetic carboxy-terminal peptide with discernible transforming activity comprised residues 19–29 of glucagon. In both native and synthetic C peptide preparations, the undecapeptide was generally more active than the dodecapeptide, although cells from different animals gave different response patterns. The difference between the two is the presence of arginine at the amino-terminus of the peptide chain. Thus, the recognition specificity of populations of antigen-reactive cells from different animals displays a variation which is at least superficially analogous to that of populations of antibody molecules.
In limited experiments using NM and C peptides as immunogens, neither gave rise to delayed hypersensitivity or to glucagon-binding circulating antibody, following a regimen which invariably provoked these responses when glucagon itself served as the immunogen.
These results indicate that glucagon was cleaved by trypsin along functional lines into two parts, one of which housed the major antigenic determinant and the other of which carried the major immunogenic determinant, and they are highly compatible with a two-cell mechanism of immune induction. An apparent dissociation between the capacity to provoke delayed hypersensitivity reactions and to transform antigen-reactive cells in culture was observed.