The Ia antigens of the guinea pig have been shown to play a central role in the regulation of the immune response. We have previously partially characterized the chemical structure of these antigens. In this communication, we further characterize the structure of the five Ia antigens already described, as well as two new Ia antigens. Evidence is presented which shows that these seven Ia antigens can be organized into three distinct groups, each with a characteristic structure. The Ia.2 determinant of strain 2 and the Ia.3 and Ia.5 determinants of strain 13 animals are found on molecules composed of a 25,000 dalton chain and a 33,000 dalton chain in noncovalent association, or else are individually expressed on nonlinked 33,000 and 25,000 dalton molecules. The Ia.4 and Ia.5 determinants of strain 2 and the Ia.7 determinant of strain 13 are borne on 58,000 dalton molecules in which two chains are linked by disulfide bonds. The Ia.1 and Ia.6 determinants of strain 13 are found on a molecule of 26,000-27,000 daltons. Ia.6 of strain 2 has yet to be definitively assigned. Furthermore, in strain 13 animals the Ia.3 and Ia.5 determinants are borne on the same molecule, as are the Ia.1 and Ia.6 determinants. In strain 2 animals, the Ia.4 and Ia.5 determinants are found on the same molecule. On the basis of chemical structure, we have divided the guinea pig I region into three subregions. The accompanying paper presents evidence of associations between particular Ia genes and Ir genes.

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