By examining a large database of amino acid sequences of antibodies of various specificities, we have found that many antibodies of distinctly different specificities assemble identical VL domains with different VH domains. In contrast, rarely is the same VH domain found in sets of antibodies of different specificities. We identified additional sets of antibodies of different specificities and identical sequences covering amino acid residues VH 1 to 94 and VL 1 to 95. In addition, there were segments of additional antibodies for which complete sequences were not available, but identities were seen in VL CDR1, VL CDR2, and VL CDR3 up to the VL-JL junction. The finding that there are many identical VL 1 to 95 segments with different VH 1 to 94 sequences, and vice versa, raises important questions as to the role of VH in influencing the conformation of VL and, conversely, the role of VL in influencing the conformation of VH. Evidence is also cited indicating that a single amino acid change may seriously disrupt site structure and in some instances abolish binding. Our findings suggest that it will be important in the future to investigate further conformational effects on antibody structure by using X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or other methods, to obtain a better understanding of the functions and topography of antibody-combining sites.

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