Protein Fv (pFv) is a recently described 175-kD gut-associated sialoprotein with a potent capacity for augmentation of antibody-dependent immune functions. To investigate the molecular basis for Fab-mediated binding of pFv, we evaluated a panel of 52 monoclonal IgM and found that approximately 40% bound pFv. Whereas the majority (> or = 75%) of V H3 and V H6 IgM strongly bound pFv, only a small minority (< 20%) of IgM from other V H families bound pFv, and these antibodies had weaker binding interactions. Inhibition studies suggested that all binding occurred at the same (or overlapping) site(s) on pFv. Surface plasmon resonance studies demonstrated binding affinity constants up to 6.7 x 10(8) M-1 for pFv. Biopanning of IgM and IgG Fab phage-display libraries with pFv preferentially selected for V H3 and V H6 antibodies, but also obtained certain V H4 IgM. V H sequence analyses of 36 pFv-binding antibodies revealed that binding did not correlate with CDR sequence, JH, or L chain usage. However, there was preferential selection of pFv binders with V H CDR3 of small size. These studies demonstrate that a protein which enhances immune defense in the gut has structural and functional properties similar to known superantigens.