In order to investigate the genetic basis for natural anti-DNA immune responses, we isolated and sequenced the variable gene elements (VH and VL) encoding an anti-DNA antibody expressed by a human hybridoma of normal origin (Kim4.6) and compared these sequences with those reported for four other human anti-DNA antibodies. The Kim4.6 antibody leader and VH segments were identical in nucleotide sequence with the VH1.9III germ-line VH3 gene, and the Kim4.6VL segment showed 98% nucleotide sequence identity with a V lambda I subgroup gene expressed in a Burkitt's lymphoma. Comparative analysis of Kim4.6 and other human hybridoma anti-DNA antibodies indicated that anti-DNA immune responses are diverse in terms of VH and VL gene utilization but may exhibit a bias toward rearrangement of VH genes that are over-represented in the fetal pre-B cell repertoire. Moreover, Kim4.6 and three of four other sequenced human anti-DNA antibodies appear to use a germ-line diversity gene, DXP'1, which may represent a counterpart of the DFL16.1 segment utilized in murine responses to the hapten nitrophenyl. Taken together, our findings indicate that anti-DNA immune responses can be encoded by nonmutated VH genes and that the elements and molecular mechanisms which engender this response are essentially the same among natural and lupus-associated anti-DNA antibodies. Our data also suggest that natural autoimmune responses originate early in B cell ontogeny as is consistent with the hypothesis that autoreactivity plays a major role in shaping the normal immune repertoire.

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