Human anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies use variable gene segments analogous to those used in autoantibodies of various specificities
The production of autoantibodies to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor are responsible for many of the neurological symptoms observed in myasthenia gravis. An understanding of the structural organization of the anti-receptor antibodies may help to define the role of these antibodies in the pathogenesis of this disease. The nucleotide sequences of the heavy and light chains of three human monoclonal anti-receptor antibodies isolated from peripheral blood lymphocytes from two patients with myasthenia gravis were analyzed. In addition, the structure of an anti-idiotypic antibody was studied. The VH and VL gene segments used in the anti-receptor antibodies appear to be derived from the same repertoire as gene segments that have been found in other autoantibodies isolated from patients with various autoimmune diseases. The IgM anti-receptor antibodies are direct copies of germline gene segments, while the structures of the IgG anti-receptor antibody and the anti-idiotypic antibody appear to be mutated suggesting that they have undergone antigenic selection.