A MRL strain bearing the autosomal recessive mutant gene, lpr (lymphoproliferation), spontaneously develops, in addition to a lupus-like syndrome, unique serological and pathological manifestations. Production of high titers of IgG rheumatoid factors (RF) may be related to the formation of extremely large amounts of cryoglobulins and the development of tissue lesions such as necrotizing polyarteritis, arthritis, and glomerulonephritis. To analyze more directly the relationship of IgG RF to the development of cryoglobulins and tissue injuries, we have established four monoclonal IgG RF secreting hybridomas from unimmunized MRL-lpr/lpr mice and determined their pathogenic effects in normal strains of mice. All the monoclonal IgG RF obtained in this study were of the IgG3 subclass and generated cryoglobulins. However, the fact that not only IgG3 Rf monoclonals but also four of five non-RF IgG3 monoclonals were able to form cryoglobulins, which were composed exclusively of each IgG3 monoclonal, indicates that the IgG3 molecule has a unique physicochemical property to self-associate via nonimmunological interaction and the ability to form cryoglobulins. When the in vivo pathogenic activities of these IgG3 RF and non-RF monoclonals were examined, three of IgG3 RF monoclonals with the specificity to IgG2a were able to induce extensive pathologic manifestations including peripheral vasculitis and glomerulonephritis characteristic of patients with cryoglobulinemia. Our results indicate that the IgG3 itself, independently of its specificity, could be a potential source of cryoglobulins and IgG3 RF, combined with its activity of cryoglobulin formation, may play a significant role in the development of glomerulonephritis and cutaneous vascular lesions of ears and foot pads observed frequently in aged MRL-lpr/lpr mice.

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