Idiotypes and antiidiotypes are thought to be important immune regulators and have provided clues for the origin and pathogenicity of autoantibodies. Many lupus and Sjögren's syndrome patients, as well as most neonatal lupus infants with congenital heart block or dermatitis, have antibodies to the ribonucleoprotein Ro/SSA, which is one of a group of RNA-protein autoantigens commonly found in human lupus sera. To characterize the fine specificity of anti-Ro/SSA antibodies, a rabbit antidiotypic serum was prepared against polyclonal affinity purified anti-Ro/SSA F(ab')2. The resulting antiidiotype, anti-Id-Rol, is specific for the F(ab')2 fraction of the anti-Ro/SSA immunogen and its binding to anti-Ro/SSA is inhibited by purified Ro/SSA. These data indicate that the Id-Rol epitope on anti-Ro/SSA is associated with the antigen binding site of these same antibodies. The Id-Rol idiotype was present by ELISA in 3 of 12 additional anti-Ro/SSA preparations from precipitin-positive donor sera and in anti-Ro/SSA from one normal donor with low level antibody. This is the first shared idiotype to be found in the human autoantibodies binding to this RNA-protein antigen. Idiotypic differences between anti-Ro/SSA autoantibodies have the potential to explain the variation in pathologic associations found in individuals who develop this autoantibody specificity.

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