Injection of a sufficient dose of bacteriophage ϕX 174 into guinea pigs results in the formation of rapidly sedimenting antibody molecules (19S), and later, slowly sedimenting molecules (7S). Above a threshold dose of antigen, the relative rate of 19S formation is maximal and dose-independent; below this dose, slower relative rates are obtained. The time for doubling the serum 19S level is as short as 6 to 8 hours, suggesting that the absolute rate of antibody formation per cell is increasing in addition to proliferation of antibody-producing cells. Synthesis of 19S after injection of 1010 ϕX virtually ceases at 10 days after which 19S antibody activity disappears from the circulation with a half-life of approximately 24 hours. A second injection of ϕX on day 5 or 9 prolongs 19S synthesis, indicating that antigen not only can regulate the relative rate, but also is essential for continued synthesis of 19S. 19S synthesis is also prolonged in guinea pigs by injection of ϕX with endotoxin or by 400 r whole body x-irradiation 24 hours after injection of phage into rabbits.
The primary 7S response is not detected until approximately 1 week after immunization and relative rates are antigen-dependent. Primary 7S synthesis can continue for many months and leads to preparation for a secondary antibody response (immunological memory) during which only 7S is detected. In contrast, in animals that form precipitating 19S without detectable 7S, a second injection of phage 1 month later results in a second 19S response which closely resembles the first. These findings have led to the suggestion that formation of 19S does not lead to persisting immunological memory.