mAb 6B6.6 and 17.109 recognize two distinct kappa III L chain cross-reactive idiotopes (CRI) present on approximately 2/3 of IgM kappa rheumatoid factor (RF) paraproteins. To determine the distribution of these two CRI and their relationship to each other among polyclonal RF, sera from 86 RA patients and 49 controls were analyzed for the presence of 6B6.6- and 17.019-bearing RF by using sensitive solid phase ELISA. Levels of CRI(+) RF were estimated by using 6B6.6(+) and 17.019(+) RF standards. Detectable levels (greater than or equal to 195 ng/ml) of CRI(+) RF were rarely present in the control sera (8% for 6B6.6; 0% for 17.109), whereas 59% of RA sera contained measurable CRI(+) RF (48% for 6B6.6; 35% for 17.109; 21% for both). Where detected, CRI(+) RF were present in low concentrations (6B6.6: 1.21 +/- 1.56 micrograms/ml; 17.109: 1.20 +/- 1.15 micrograms/ml) and constituted a small fraction of the total IgM RF in these sera (6B6.6: 0.9 +/- 2.2%; 17.109: 0.8 +/- 0.9%). There was no correlation between either RF CRI and levels of IgM RF (r less than 0.1, p greater than 0.5). Levels of 6B6.6(+) RF did not correlate with 17.109(+) RF (r = -0.11, p = 0.47). In selected sera that contained both RF CRI, it was possible to selectively absorb 6B6.6(+) RF. Taken together, these data indicate the mutual independence of these two RF CRI among polyclonal RF and suggest the presence of distinct regulatory mechanisms governing their expression. Moreover, that these two CRI constitute a small proportion of polyclonal RF, in contrast to their striking predominance among monoclonal RF paraproteins, argues for the importance of other germline VL genes contributing to polyclonal RF production or the presence of extensive somatic mutation among polyclonal RF in RA.

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