We have explored the structural basis of idiotopes associated with the major idiotype (CRIA) of A/J anti-p-azobenzenearsonate antibodies, with emphasis on the regions of contact with anti-idiotypic antibody. The analysis was facilitated by a recent description of the three-demensional structure of the Fab portion of a CRIA-related antibody molecule. Direct binding measurements failed to reveal idiotopes associated exclusively with the L chain. However, the L chain participated in the formation of approximately 80% of the idiotopes recognized by polyclonal anti-Id. This indicates that multiple complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) participate in the formation of idiotopes. The affinity of anti-Id for CDRs on L chains must be appreciable but insufficient to permit direct binding (i.e., less than approximately 10(4) M-1). Approximately 20-35% of polyclonal anti-Id reacted with high affinity with H chains recombined with non-CRIA-related L chains. This interaction was found to involve the D region as well as one or both CDRs in the VH segment, again indicating the contribution of multiple CDRs. It is suggested that a typical idiotope may be similar in size to that of protein epitopes whose three-dimensional structures are known; such epitopes comprise a substantial fraction of the surface area occupied by the CDRs of an antibody. The expression of an idiotope recognized by the mAb AD8, which interacts with the VH segment, was found to be unaffected by major changes in the neighboring D and VL regions. This observation is relevant to efforts to predict three-dimensional structure from the amino acid sequence of CRIA+ molecules.

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