Immunization of rabbits with group B type III streptococcus organisms induces two distinct populations of antibodies with a specificity for determinants on the native capsular polysaccharide antigen of these organisms. Some of the structural and conformational features of the two determinants responsible for the formation of these antibodies were elucidated by (13)C NMR and serological studies on the native type III polysaccharide and some of its structurally modified analogues. The specificity of the determinant corresponding to the major population of antibodies is dependent of the presence of sialic acid residues on the native type III antigen, and although these residues are not an integral part of the determinant, they exert conformational control over it. The carboxylate groups of the sialic acid residues are an important factor in this control mechanism which could possibly involve intramolecular hydrogen bonding. The terminal sialic acid residues control the orientation of the penultimate beta-d-galactopyranose residues with respect to the backbone of the native antigen. The orientation of these residues is critical to the determinant because the determinant is probably small and is located precisely at the junction of the same beta-d-galactopyranose residues with the backbone of the native type III antigen. The determinant corresponding to the other population of antibodies is not sialic acid dependent. This determinant is located on the backbone of the native antigen in the vicinity of the other determinant but on the opposite side to the oligosaccharide branches. In this position, its conformation is unaffected even by the removal of the oligosaccharide branches from the native antigen.