Immunoglobulin (Ig) was obtained from the tumor cells of patients with B cell malignancies by somatic cell hybridization to mouse-human heteromyeloma cells. The human Ig secreted by one of these hybridomas was used as an immunogen for the production of rat monoclonal antibodies (mAb). A panel of mAb specific for the idiotype (Id) was produced and characterized. Competitive binding studies that made use of [Se]-labeled anti-Id mAb (MAID) demonstrated several distinct yet topographically related Id on the Id-bearing Ig. These antibodies were shown to have avidities ranging from 0.38 to 45.3 X 10(8) l/mol. Additional studies demonstrated varying degrees of antigenic modulation of surface Id in vitro by MAID. The degree of modulation correlates with antibody avidity.