The present investigation extends our immunochemical characterization of binding site heterogeneity among a large series of monoclonal anti-phosphocholine (PC) antibodies. Hybridoma proteins (HP) from eight genetically distinct strains are included in this study, yet no strain specific characteristics are observed. These HP, as previously shown (5), are divided into three well-defined families based on public or family-specific Id and L chain isotypes characteristic of three PC-binding myeloma proteins: T15, M603, and M511. All antibodies exhibited some degree of inter- or intra-family heterogeneity, or both. Some of this intra-family diversity was reflected by differential reactivity for PC when attached to three different carriers. In spite of this, the specificity profiles for hapten analogues of PC, as measured by hapten inhibition of binding, were the same for all members of the T15 family. Altering the carrier had no effect, thus suggesting that the binding site pocket for PC is essentially preserved, whereas that for carrier is variable. Similar conclusions were reached for most of the M603 HP, although the binding site is different from the T15 HP. The M511 HP stand in sharp contrast to the HP in the other two families because their binding sites exhibit extensive variability. The independence in reactivity for PC and PC plus carrier offers a rational explanation for idiotypic and/or structural heterogeneity within a family. More importantly it suggests interesting strategies for diversification within one group of antibodies.

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