Rabbit antisera raised to human and chicken MHC molecules were used to immunoprecipitate cross-reactive molecules from biosynthetically and cell surface-labeled spleen and/or blood cells of representative vertebrate species. Five major points emerged: 1) There were many nonspecific cross-reactions using these techniques, so various criteria were developed to distinguish these from true MHC-like molecules. 2) Only very small subpopulations of immunogen-specific antibodies cross-reacted with MHC-like molecules in other nonmammalian species. These subpopulations were different for each species and even within a species, sometimes being so limited as to behave like alloantisera. This led to a very scattered pattern of true cross-reactions that sometimes failed to reflect the properties of the bulk antibody population. 3) Antisera containing antibodies to class II beta- and class I alpha-chains cross-reacted better and more widely than those to B-G, class II alpha and, in general, beta 2-microglobulin. 4) Some cross-reactive antibodies were clearly directed to epitopes on the surface of the mature heterodimers, but many seemed to recognize nonlinear cryptic determinants, presumably in the contact regions between the chains. These latter antibodies recognized biosynthetic intermediates and also a variety of unusual cell surface MHC-like molecules present in reptile and amphibian, but absent in the mammal and chicken cells tested. These included E homodimers whose relationship to chicken B-G molecules is unknown. 5) MHC-like molecules were identified in a bird, three reptiles, and two amphibians, but no molecules with the expected properties were found with these reagents in any of the fish tested.

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