Serum immunoglobulin levels and naturally occurring antibodies against carbohydrate antigens in germ-free BALB/c mice fed chemically defined ultrafiltered diet



This study investigates the influence of exogenous antigenic stimulation on the serum immunoglobulin levels and the levels of circulating natural antibodies against carbohydrate antigens. Thus, BALB/c mice, raised in a germ-free environment and fed a chemically defined, ultrafiltered diet (GF-CD), were employed. These mice had normal serum IgM levels, but IgG and IgA levels were approximately 5% of conventionally reared littermates. The concentrations of all four IgG isotypes were equally low. The variable part of the heavy chains of naturally occurring BALB/c antibodies against a number of carbohydrate antigens, including 3-fucosyllactosamine (3-FL), levan and dextran, are encoded by VH441, and these antibodies express cross-reactive idiotopes recognized by the monoclonal antibodies 6C4 and 6B1. Antibodies against levan and dextran were lower in GF-CD than in conventional mice, but levels of anti-3FL antibodies, and 6C4 and 6B1 idiotopes, were comparable to those in conventional animals. Peptidoglycan polysaccharide complexes (PPC) are carbohydrate antigens of bacterial origin, like levan and galactan. Naturally occurring antibodies against PPC were found in the serum of conventional mice, but were severely reduced in GF-CD mice. The results indicate that most naturally occurring antibodies against carbohydrate antigens of bacterial origin found in conventional mice are caused by exogenous stimulation.