The majority of plasma cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovium produce rheumatoid factors (RF). IgG RF predominate in the immune complexes found in RA synovial fluid and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of RA. IgG4 RF are a major component of IgG RF produced in serum and synovium of RA patients, even though this subclass comprises only 4% of the serum IgG. We produced an IgG4 mAb, hRF-1, with RF reactivity from the synovial tissue of a patient with RA. mAb hRF-1 had binding specificity for mammalian IgG similar to Staphylococcus aureus protein A, which is characteristic of RF from patients with RA. To determine the molecular basis of this particular RF reactivity, the heavy and light chain genes of mAb hRF-1 were amplified by PCR, cloned, and ligated into the pSG5 plasmid for expression in COS-7 cells. Chain recombination experiments localized the Fc-binding reactivity to the hRF-1 heavy chain. Using a series of chimeric Ab sequences, the Fc-binding reactivity was mapped to the constant region of IgG4 rather than the variable region involved in classic RF reactivity. Multiple domains, including Hinge, CH2, and CH3 of the IgG4 constant region were required for Fc binding. Our studies demonstrate an example of RF-like Fc-binding reactivity that is conferred by the gamma-4 constant region rather than the classic Ag binding site and suggest that increased production of IgG4 may contribute to the pathogenesis of RA.

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