Selective breeding of rabbits immunized with Group C and Group A streptococcal vaccines was employed to reveal genetic influences on the magnitude and on the restriction in heterogeneity of the immune response to the group-specific carbohydrates. After two generations of selective breeding, complete segregation was achieved between a high-response population (>18 mg precipitins/ml serum, average 33 mg/ml) and a low-response population (<13 mg precipitins/ml serum, average 7.5 mg/ml) to Group C carbohydrate. This suggests that a limited number of genes controls the magnitude of the immune response to this antigen.
Selective breeding of rabbits which were representative of heterogeneous, restricted, and monoclonal responses revealed that the degree of antibody heterogeneity in the parental rabbits is reflected in the offspring. More than 95% of the offspring derived from rabbits which had a heterogeneous immune response developed heterogeneous antibodies. 33% of the offspring derived from rabbits which had restricted and monoclonal immune responses developed monoclonal antibodies. This suggests that the degree of heterogeneity of the antibody response to the streptococcal carbohydrates is under genetic control. The degree of heterogeneity and the magnitude of the immune response appear to be independent variables.