Most mouse strains are able to mount a diverse antibody response against group A streptococcal carbohydrate (GAC). We have previously reported that murine anti-GAC antibodies are for the most part restricted to IgM and IgG3 subclasses. In addition, despite extensive heterogeneity in their isoelectric focusing patterns, greater than 50% of A/J anti-GAC antibodies share a common light chain defined by spectrotypic and idiotypic (VK1GAC) criteria. We have used protein and DNA sequencing strategies to examine the genetic basis of diversity in murine anti-GAC antibodies. In particular, we report that, (a) multiple, closely homologous VH gene segments contribute to the generation of anti-GAC antibodies, (b) a common framework sequence, related to the VK27 subgroup, probably defines VK1GAC, and (c) the A/J anti-GAC VH regions and BALB/c anti-inulin VH sequences are 95% homologous at the protein level and are likely encoded by overlapping VH gene families. Lastly, we discuss the genetic mechanisms that might permit the evolution of multiple, closely homologous germline VH gene segments in the context of highly divergent flanking region sequences.

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