Escherichia coli3H-tRNA and MS2 phage 125I-RNA were prepared and used in a sensitive nitrocellulose filter assay. Antibodies that bound these RNA ligands occurred in the sera of several patients with SLE, but not in sera of patients with other connective tissue diseases. The antibody populations that bound polyribonucleotides (largely IgG) were distinct from antibody populations that bound polydeoxyribonucleotides. Competition experiments showed that the anti-RNA antibodies preferentially bound native ssRNA as compared with synthetic single and double stranded polyribonucleotides. There was increasing affinity with increasing m.w. of the ssRNA. The anti-tRNA population was of restricted heterogeneity (Sips index 0.83) and bound tRNA with an average association constant (Ko) of 9 × 106 1/mole at 4°C. The anti-MS2 RNA population was much more heterogeneous (Sips index 0.67) and bound MS2 RNA with a Ko of about 3 × 109 1/mole at 4°C. Whereas NZB/NZW mice spontaneously produce RNA reactive antibodies with conformation specificity for native tRNA, human SLE anti-RNA antibodies appear to have very little of this type of conformation specificity.

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