Although mice from almost all inbred strains produce IgM anti-DNA antibody in response to B cell mitogens, only (NZB x NZW)F1 mice and mice from other strains that are genetically predisposed to autoimmunity spontaneously produce anti-DNA antibody of the IgG isotype. Because (NZB x NZW)F1 mice display marked B cell hyperactivity, anti-DNA antibody production in these mice has been thought to result from spontaneous, polyclonal B cell activation. Although this may be true for IgM anti-DNA antibodies, our results demonstrate that IgG anti-DNA antibodies are not polyclonal. Rather, IgG anti-DNA autoantibodies within an individual autoimmune mouse are oligoclonal and somatically mutated. These results demonstrate that IgG anti-DNA autoantibodies are the products of clonally selective B cell stimulation and exhibit the same characteristics as secondary immune antibodies to conventional immunogens: they are IgG, they are clonally restricted, and they are somatically mutated.

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