To better understand the structural basis for rheumatoid factor activity, the nucleotide sequence of the light chain variable regions of nine human monospecific IgM rheumatoid factors were analyzed. Rheumatoid factors were isolated from three patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus, and a normal individual. The VL gene segments used by these rheumatoid factors are not as restricted as previous work on mixed cryoglobulin rheumatoid factors had suggested. Each of the different VK families is represented and there are two examples where a V lambda gene segment is used. Molecules with structures similar to those of the Wa and Po CRI, characteristic of mixed cryoglobulin rheumatoid factors, are not common among these rheumatoid factors isolated from patients with rheumatoid arthritis. While there are clear examples of rheumatoid factors that are direct copies of germline genes, most of the sequence data suggest that the processes of antigenic selection and somatic mutation contribute significantly to the generation of monospecific rheumatoid factors in patients with autoimmune disease.
K D Victor, I Randen, K Thompson, O Forre, J B Natvig, S M Fu, J D Capra