Many pneumococcal capsular polysaccharides (PSs) are similar in structure, and a pneumococcal antibody often binds to all of the PSs with a similar structure. Yet, these cross-reactive antibodies may bind to the structurally related pneumococcal capsular PSs with an avidity too low to be effective. If memory B cells producing such weakly cross-reactive antibodies are elicited with pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, the memory cells for low-avidity antibodies could compromise the subsequent immune responses to the cross-reactive PS (original antigenic sin). To investigate these issues, we produced 14 hybridomas secreting monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to the capsular PS of Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 6B by immunizing BALB/c mice with antigens containing 6B PS and studied their epitope, avidity, in vitro opsonizing capacity, in vivo protective capacity, and "antigen binding titer" by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) of 6A and 6B capsular PSs. Six MAbs bound to the non-cross-reactive 6B-specific epitope, and seven MAbs bound to the cross-reactive epitope present in both 6A and 6B PSs One MAb (Hyp6BM6) revealed a novel epitope. This epitope was found on 6A PS in solution, but not on 6A PS adsorbed onto the plastic surface of the ELISA plates. The avidity of the MAb for 6A or 6B PS ranged from 7.8 × 106 M-1 to 4.1 × 1011 M-1. No MAbs were weakly cross-reactive, since none of the cross-reactive MAbs showed any tendency toward having less avidity to 6A PS (the cross-reactive PS) than to 6B PS. Avidity influenced the results of several antibody assays. When all of the hybridomas were examined, avidity strongly correlated with the titer of a unit amount of MAb to bind antigen-coated ELISA plates (r = 0.91) or to opsonize pneumococci in vitro (r = -0.85). Because both assay results are avidity dependent, the ELISA and the opsonization assay results were strongly correlated (r = 0.91), regardless of avidity. Avidity also correlated with the potency of a MAb to passively protect mice against pneumococcal infections. When only the immunoglobulin G hybridomas were examined, little increase in opsonizing capacity and in vivo protective potency was observed above 109 M-1. Taken together, an ELISA measuring antigen binding titer may be an adequate measure of the protective immunity induced with pneumococcal vaccines, and the absence of a partially cross-reactive MAb suggests that antigenic sin may not be significant in responses to vaccines against the S, pneumoniae 6B serotype.