Naturally induced auto-anti-idiotypic (AAI) antibody responses specific for antimicrococcal antibody idiotypes were detected in 42% of the rabbits in a family immunized with Micrococcus lysodeikticus. The natural AAI response of each rabbit recognized only a portion (11-41%) of that individual's total antimicrococcal antibody population. Cross-reactions of idiotypes were observed within the group of rabbits exhibiting natural AAI responses. Examination of the basis for the cross-reactions showed that the natural AAI antisera recognized identical idiotopes on the antimicrococcal F(ab')2 fragments from each rabbit that made an AAI response. The cross-reactive idiotopes were shown to be of paternal origin and were found in the antimicrococcal antibodies of each offspring. The data strongly support the idiotypic network concept that naturally induced AAI responses may occur routinely in outbred normal individuals as a result of antigenic stimulation. Further, the data suggest that the induction of regulatory AAI antibody responses in outbred rabbits may depend on the expression of particular germ line idiotopes.

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