Many idiotypic determinants on antibody molecules are thought to be located at the antigen binding site, and therefore the interaction between idiotype (Id) and anti-idiotype (anti-Id) is expected to be inhibited by the antigen. We describe two IgG and one IgM rheumatoid factors whose interactions with their respective anti-Id could only be partially inhibited by very large amounts of antigen, i.e., normal IgG. The anti-Id, however, readily inhibited the binding of their respective rheumatoid factors to IgG. The differences in interaction energies resulted in failure of antigen to readily block the Id-anti-Id interaction, and did not mean that the Id was not at the antigen combining site. The association constants for the Id-anti-Id interactions varied from 1.3 to 14.8 X 10(7) M-1, whereas the strength of the rheumatoid factor antigen bond is on the order of 10(5) M-1 for interaction with monomeric IgG. In addition, the anti-Id were able to remove rheumatoid factors that were bound to solid phase IgG, indicating that anti-Id have the potential for disrupting the immune complexes formed by antigen and antibody.