With age, NZB mice develop anti-RBC autoantibodies resulting in the development of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. We now have evidence that this spontaneous autoantibody response consists of antibodies that are similar in specificity and Id expression to a pathogenic autoantibody (G8) that was cloned from an autoimmune NZB mouse. Similar to autoantibodies eluted from Coombs'-positive mouse E (MRBC), the G8 mAb recognizes native (unmodified) MRBC but not RBC from other species. Interestingly, G8 and four additional mAb bind with a higher titer to bromelain-treated MRBC than to native MRBC. Nucleotide sequence analysis reveals, however, that unlike "natural" antibodies that react solely with bromelain-MRBC, G8 is encoded by a J558 VH gene and a V kappa 12,13 L-chain gene. Thus G8 is clearly distinct from antibodies to bromelain-MRBC which are encoded by unrelated V genes. Instead, the sequence of the G8 VH chain was found to be nearly identical to that of an anti-DNA mAb derived from an MRL-lpr/lpr mouse. The results suggest Coombs'-positive autoantibodies from NZB mice are not derived from "natural" antibodies, but rather, consist of a restricted set of autoantibodies expressing the G8 IdX.