The sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, has been found to produce specific antibodies after immunization with bacteriophage f2. Antibody activity is localized in 6.6S and 14S fractions of lamprey serum. The 6.6S antibodies were purified by a combination of zone electrophoresis, ion exchange chromatography, and gel filtration. Antigenic analysis of the 6.6S antibodies showed them to be free of other serum proteins and antigenically similar or identical to the 14S fraction. Evidence has been obtained which suggests that the 6.6S immunoglobulins consist of light components (molecular weight 25,000) and heavy components (molecular weight 70,000). In the immunoglobulin, these polypeptides appear to be linked via weak interactions but not by interchain disulfide bonds. Molecular weight analyses support the view that the chains can undergo concentration-dependent dissociation in aqueous solutions. Amino acid analyses showed that the compositions of the light and heavy components were similar and that aspartic acid or asparagine was the predominant amino terminal residue. Starch gel electrophoresis indicated that the subunits of lamprey antibodies are diffusely heterogeneous. The heavy chain mobility corresponded to that of µ-chains and resembled that of heavy chains of shark and sting ray immunoglobulins.
In the course of the fractionation a 46S natural hemagglutinin composed of lower molecular weight subunits was isolated. This hemagglutinin did not resemble the lamprey immunoglobulin although it had a similar zone electrophoretic mobility in the ß-region.
These studies are consistent with the hypothesis that µ-chains were the earliest of the heavy chain classes to emerge and further support the view that the multichain structure of immunoglobulins is a fundamental feature of antibody molecules.