We have selected and cloned variant cells from the murine B cell lymphoma, CH12, that produce a variety of other Ig isotypes in addition to or in place of the original IgM and IgD. Variants were selected by flow cytometry and automated cloning and isotype production was analyzed by membrane immunofluorescence and ELISA of culture fluids. Variants have been isolated that produce the single isotypes IgA, IgG2b, and IgG3, as well as variants that produce more than one isotype simultaneously, i.e., IgM, IgD, and IgA; IgG2b and IgA; IgG3 and IgA. All isotypes have been seen as cell surface proteins and all except IgD have been found in culture supernatants. All isotypes display the same idiotype and Ag-binding specificity for phosphatidyl choline as the original IgM and all are translated from the same VDJH and VJ kappa gene assemblies. Production of more than one isotype by a variant clone is due to simultaneous production of all the isotypes by each cell within the clone. The finding that the variants producing more than one isotype are all tetraploid suggests the interesting possibility that each isotype is derived from an independently switching chromosome. All isotype variants can be stimulated by LPS to secrete the appropriate Ig isotype at an increased rate similar to the IgM expressing parent. The variants differ in stability; some have remained stable for more than 9 months in culture, whereas other have undergone further isotype switching. The facts that some isotypes have not been seen, that multistep switching has occurred, and that many variants produce IgA in addition to another isotype are discussed in relation to current notions of isotype switching mechanisms.

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