L-Tyrosine-p-azobenzenearsonate (RAT) induces cellular immunity without humoral antibody in guinea pigs. Asymmetric bifunctional antigens composed of one RAT moiety and one dinitrophenyl (DNP) group separated by flexible spacers induce anti-RAT cellular immunity and an anti-DNP humoral response. Symmetrical bifunctional antigens of similar design but comprised of two RAT determinants induce cellular immunity without demonstrable anti-RAT antibody. However, when the flexible spacer is replaced by a rigid decaproline chain, humoral anti-RAT responses are provoked.
Since RAT contains both electropositive (azo) and electronegative (arsonate) centers, the failure of bifunctional RAT compounds with flexible spacers to induce humoral immunity might be ascribed either to intramolecular stacking, which compromises their bifunctional character, or to interaction of both determinants with receptors on the same cell surface, which would fail to satisfy the requirement for cooperation. In order to distinguish between these alternatives, symmetrical bifunctional antigens composed of two L-tyrosine-p-azophenyltrimethylammonium (TAT) determinants separated by flexible or rigid spacers were synthesized. TAT is immunogenic and does not cross-react with RAT. Furthermore, it contains only electropositive centers and consequently bifunctional molecules do not undergo intramolecular stacking. Immunization with either flexibly or rigidly spaced bifunctional TAT antigens raised anti-TAT antibody. These results conclusively demonstrate that "self-help," cooperation between bone marrow-derived and thymus-derived lymphocytes of identical or similar specificity, can occur, provided the determinants on the antigen are prevented from associating with each other.