The mechanisms of antibody binding to a protein were studied by an analysis of specific amino acid residues critical to nine antigenic sites on myohemerythrin. Rabbit antisera to the whole protein were assayed for binding to more than 1500 distinct peptide analogs differing from the protein sequence by single amino acid replacements. The results, combined with information from the three-dimensional crystallographic structure, were used to evaluate probable mechanisms of antibody binding at individual sites. The data from all sites examined indicate that initial binding to solvent-exposed amino acid residues may promote local side-chain displacements and thereby allow the participation of other, previously buried, residues.

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