Intraveneous hyperimmunization of selectivity bred rabbits with streptococcal group A-variant vaccines elicits antibody responses of restricted heterogeneity at high antibody levels. All antisera contain two functionally distinct antibody populations, which can be isolated in single-band purity upon analytical isoelectric focusing. Typical examples of these two kinds of single-band antibodies were investigated in great detail for several parameters by a variety of methods. 85--99% of the streptococcal group A-variant polysaccharide (Av-CHO)-specific antibody in the antisera does not precipitate the isolated 5,000 daltons poly-L-rhamnose antigen, neither agglutinates nor lyses in the presence of complement Av-CHO-coated sheep erythrocytes (SRBC), binds the radio-labeled Av-CHO with an association constant in the ragne of 10(5)--10(6) M-1, and is of terminal specificity (nonreducing end) for the linear Av-CHO. In contrast, the minor fraction of Av-CHO-specific antibody (1--15%) does precipitate the linear Av-CHO, both agglutinates and lyses Av-CHO-coated SRBC in the presence of complement, has an affinity range of 10(8)--10(9) M-1, and is of internal specificity for the Av-CHO. The antigenic determinants of the Av-CHO for the antibodies are nonoverlapping, only one Fab of the low affinity antibody can be bound whereas four Fab of the high affinity antibody are accommodated. Hence, the determinant specificity explains the functional differences observed, for there is no indication of subclass differences. A mechanistic model of the A-variant carbohydrate presentation on the vaccine appears to account best for the unbalanced levels of low and high affinity antibody.

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