The antigenic determinant on the Fc region of human IgG for two IgG rheumatoid factors (IgG-RF) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis were investigated in detail. The RF did not interact with IgG fragments that contained the C gamma 2 or C gamma 3 region alone, but required the presence of both regions for binding. The RF binding to solid-phase IgG were poorly inhibited by the IgG3 subclass and strongly inhibited by staphylococcal protein A (SPA) (42 kD), and fragment D of SPA (7 kD), indicating that the binding site is most likely the same as the Ga antigenic determinant described for IgM-RF, and is in the same location as the site on IgG that binds SPA. pH titration studies of the RF binding to IgG indicated the involvement of histidine and lysine or tyrosine side chains. Chemical modification studies showed the histidines were involved on the Fc side of the interactions, and tyrosines were involved on both the antigenic and antibody sides of the interactions. Lysines were not involved. The above information, and the knowledge of the number and position in space of the amino acid residues involved in the C gamma 2-C gamma 3 interface region of IgG, the binding site for SPA, and the amino acid substitutions in IgG3 that account for its inability to bind protein A, allowed the identification of the site on IgG that bind IgG-RF. This binding site involves some of the same amino acid side chains, His 435, Tyr 436, and one or both His 433 and 310, and is in the same location as the site that binds SPA. The same site is likely to be a common antigenic determinant for other RF. Furthermore, the described molecular mimicry suggests a biological relationship between bacterial Fc-binding proteins and the production of RF in rheumatoid arthritis.

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