The near-ultraviolet circular dichroism (CD) of three homogeneous anti-type III pneumococcal antibodies in the absence and the presence of the specific hexasaccharide ligand was studied. In addition recombinations and hybridizations of H and L chains derived from two of these antibodies were carried out and the CD spectra of bound and free reconstituted IgG molecules were measured. The results indicate that the CD spectra of the native antibodies in the 260-310-nm range are very similar in shape and sign and exhibit a positive band at 285 nm. The homologous reconstituted antibody molecules exhibited CD spectra very similar in shape and sign to those of the native antibody molecules although recombinant molecules are no longer stabilized by interchain disulfide bonds. Upon addition of the hexasaccharide ligand, a significant decrease in amplitude of the CD spectra (18-21%) occurred in all three native antibodies and their Fab fragments as well as in the homologous recombinant molecules. No CD spectral changes could be detected upon interaction of the hapten ligand with the heterologous recombinants. All homogeneous antibodies studied exhibited fluorescence quenching upon oligosaccharide binding and a blue shift of the emission maximum. This property allowed the determination of the binding constant of one selected antibody to be made. Taken together, CD and fluorescence spectroscopic data suggest that oligosaccharide ligands induced detectable conformational changes in the Fab fragment of the antibody.