The expression of the VH genes in 46 murine hybridoma cells that secrete mAb directed to the cancer-associated carbohydrate Ag, especially acidic glycolipids such as gangliosides and sulfated glycoplipids, was analyzed by Northern hybridization of poly(A)+ RNA of hybridoma with cDNA probes for nine VH gene families. Different hybridomas tended to express VH genes of the same family when the cognate Ag had the same or similar carbohydrate structures; i.e., the VH genes of the J558 family (group 1) were preferentially expressed in the mAb directed to various gangliosides that have NeuAc alpha (or NeuGc alpha) 2-3 and/or 2-8 linkage (71%), the most common linkage of sialic acid residues in the gangliosides of higher animals, and the hybridomas directed to sulfated glycolipids also expressed mainly the VH genes of the J558 family (80%). In contrast, the five mAb directed to various gangliosides with NeuAc alpha 2-6 linkage were exclusively encoded by the VH genes of Q52 family (group 2, 100%), and three antibodies directed to gangliosides with a NeuAc alpha 2-9 linkage all expressed genes of J606 family (group 6, 100%). The VH family usage was largely correlated with the linkage of sialic acid residues in the cognate carbohydrate Ag, but was not correlated at all with the difference in the fine specificities toward the core neutral carbohydrate chain, to which the sialic acid residues were attached. These findings suggest that the VH gene family in these anticarbohydrate antibodies is selected, depending primarily on the linkage of the sialic acid residues in carbohydrate Ag; these residues form the immunodominant sugar residue in the respective antigenic determinant.

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