We have recently reported the presence of IgG which has a potent inhibitory activity against IL-1 alpha in some sera from patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The mechanism of this inhibition by IgG against IL-1 alpha is now elucidated. IgG with IL-1 alpha-inhibitory activity inhibited the binding of 125I-IL-1 alpha to receptors on rheumatoid synovial cells. In addition, preincubation of synovial cells with the inhibitory IgG did not block the binding of 125I-IL-1 alpha to receptors, suggesting a direct interaction between IgG and IL-1 alpha. To examine which region of the IgG, namely Fab or Fc region, has the inhibitory activity, the IgG was digested with papain, and Fab and Fc fragments were purified. Fab fragments, but not Fc fragments, inhibited both IL-1 alpha-induced thymocyte-proliferation and the binding of 125I-IL-1 alpha to receptors. We further demonstrated that the inhibitory IgG which was bound to protein A Sepharose could bind a significant amount of 125I-IL-1 alpha, whereas only a negligible binding of the radiolabeled ligand was detected when IgG without the inhibitory activity was used as control. Moreover, the binding of 125I-IL-1 alpha to IgG with the inhibitory activity was clearly blocked by Fab fragments of IgG having the inhibitory activity. Finally, affinity-purified IgG over an IL-alpha affinity column showed approximately 100-fold more potent inhibitory activity on IL-1 alpha-induced thymocyte proliferation compared with untreated IgG. From these results, we conclude that IgG molecules with IL-1-alpha-inhibitory activity are neutralizing autoantibodies against IL-1 alpha.

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