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The antibody response to a defined protein antigen, hen egg white lysozyme (HEL) has been investigated using an aminopeptidase-treated HEL molecule, des-1,2,3-HEL (AP-HEL). Surprisingly, removal of these three N-terminal residues eliminates an epitope which is a dominant B cell determinant recognized in the primary antibody response to HEL. Thus, the initial antibody response focuses on a very small region of the molecule. Even more striking is the observation that removal of this epitope markedly reduces the immunogenicity of HEL. Therefore, the epitope is not only the focus of the primary antibody response, but is essential for the initiation of the response. This report demonstrates that a selective mechanism must be activated during the response to this protein antigen. Of the multitude of B cell determinants present on HEL, only a limited number are focused upon by the immune system.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of immunology

Publication Date





447 - 453


Antibody-Producing Cells, Animals, Mice, Inbred Strains, Chickens, Mice, Muramidase, Epitopes, Hemolytic Plaque Technique, Antibody Formation, Antibody Affinity, Major Histocompatibility Complex, Amino Acid Sequence, Egg White, Female, Male