An average of 50% of anti-p-azophenylarsonate (Ars) antibodies bear a cross-reactive idiotype, IdCR, and an average of 15% bear a relatively minor idiotype, Id, in A/J mice. To begin to investigate the processes that influence the expressed levels of these idiotype-bearing antibodies in serum, we have examined the frequency among preimmune B cells of cells that utilize the heavy chain variable region gene segment (VH) needed for IdCR and that which is needed for Id anti-Ars antibody expression. Our results indicate these VH gene segments are functionally rearranged at frequencies one would expect for random usage. The frequency of VH gene segment utilization is similar to, if not higher than, that of VHCR, arguing that the predominance of IdCR-over Id-bearing antibodies is not due to preferential usage of the VHCR gene segment. In addition to the analysis of Ars-immune sera pooled from several mice, we have examined 20 individual A/J mice to determine whether the relative serum levels of IdCR- and Id-bearing antibodies are strictly regulated relative to each other. Among individuals, we find that IdCR and Id antibody levels fluctuate over a 28-fold and a 120-fold range, respectively. The ratio of IdCR to Id antibody levels was found not to be strictly regulated, varying over a 300-fold range. Linear regression analysis of IdCR relative to Id concentrations shows a correlation coefficient of only 0.093. Indeed, rare mice can be found that generate greater levels of Id-bearing antibodies than those bearing IdCR. These results are indicative of a stochastic process involved during the generation of these IdCR-and Id-bearing antibody families. Models accounting for the generation of this highly variable serologic response derived from a preimmune repertoire in which VH gene segments are equivalently utilized are discussed.

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