Biology of the cell / under the auspices of the European Cell Biology Organization. vol:64 issue:1 pages:45-55
Alpha 2-macroglobulin (alpha 2M) is a plasma inhibitor of proteinases, the steric mechanism of which is based on a considerable conformational change. The typical and distinct H-like shape of alpha 2M-chymotrypsin (alpha 2M-chy) complexes seen by electron microscopy led us to an ultrastructural study of the binding of a monoclonal antibody (Mab) specific for this conformation of alpha 2M. The epitope of this Mab is located near the extremities of the 4 arms of the H-like alpha 2M-chy, at a site that is not accessible on the native molecule. The identical binding of the Mab on the 4 arms of the tetrameric molecule demonstrates that these arms are equivalent portions of the 4 monomers. Various types of immune complexes between alpha 2M and IgG are described, and images of individual immune complexes were processed by correspondence analysis. This extracts new information concerning the organization of chymotrypsin-transformed alpha 2M. The molecule appears asymmetrical, presents 2 conformational states (which we describe as relaxed and twisted), and has flexible arms. These intramolecular motions are supposed to be related to IgG binding. The results are discussed in comparison with previously published models of proteinase-transformed alpha 2M.