Guinea pig eosinophil granules are characterized by the presence of a basic protein of low molecular weight which accounts for greater than 50% of granule protein. This protein, termed the major basic protein (MBP), readily aggregates and becomes insoluble, and the formation of aggregates is dependent on the establishment of disulfide bonds. Analysis of concentrated preparations of MBP often revealed a series of bands which were multiples of a monomeric unit with a mol wt of approximately 11,000. Analysis of reduced and alkylated MBP on a 10% agarose column equilibrated with 6 M guanidinium chloride revealed a single polypeptide chain with a mol wt of 10,800. Amino acid analysis of the protein revealed the presence of 13% arginine, consistent with the basic character of the molecule. Four residues of tryptophan, were present, indicating that MBP is not a histone. The MBP did not increase vascular permeability when injected into the skin of guinea pigs, nor did it antagonize the effect of histamine and bradykinin in the skin. MBP also did not contract the isolated guinea pig ileum and when mixed with histamine or bradykinin did not inhibit their activity on the gut. MBP had only weak, if any, antihistaminic activity. MBP possessed weak bactericidal activity when compared to histone and then only with one strain of E. coli. MBP precipitated DNA, neutralized heparin, and activated papain. On a molar basis MBP was more active than cysteine in activating papain. These results do not point to any unique biological activity associated with MBP other than those expected of a protein as basic as it is and one which possesses reactive sulfhydryl groups. Possible functions of eosinophils based on the properties of the MBP are discussed.

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