The spleens of old NZB mice have an abnormal population of B cells with extra chromosomes. These hyperdiploid B cells manifest increased proliferative capacity; they grow in (NZB X DBA/2)F1 spleens after intravenous injections. Molecular analysis of individual old NZB and F1 passaged spleens demonstrate that hyperdiploid cells represent a clonal or oligoclonal expansion of B cells. All spleens with at least 10% hyperdiploid cells demonstrated both heavy and kappa light chain immunoglobulin gene rearrangements by Southern blot hybridization. None of the hyperdiploid spleens from old NZB mice had lambda rearrangements and only one of five showed evidence of clonal rearrangement of the TCR-beta gene. One also had a VK10 clonal rearrangement. Elevated p53 oncogene protein was observed in NZB hyperdiploid spleen cells; however, no p53 or other oncogene rearrangements or amplifications were seen. Hyperdiploid cells were IgM-bright, IgD-dull, Ia+, dull B220, Thy-1-, and Ly-1-dull. Spleens with hyperdiploid B cells had increased percentages of Ly-1 B cells. The data suggest that hyperdiploid cells in old NZB mice represent clonal expansion of B cells and that they may represent an intermediate stage between autoimmunity and malignancy.

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