Clonally related IgM rheumatoid factors undergo affinity maturation in the rheumatoid synovial tissue
Using hybridoma technology we established a panel of human monoclonal rheumatoid factors (RF) from the synovial tissues of two patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and one patient with polyarticular juvenile RA. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the V regions of these RF indicates that two independently derived antibodies from one of the RA patients are clonally related. One of these antibodies appears to be close to germ-line configuration, whereas the other has accumulated a total of 36 substitutions in both H and L chains. Measurements of the affinity for human IgG of the two RF show that the extensively mutated RF has 100-fold higher affinity for IgG than the RF close to germline. These findings indicate that IgM RF in RA can undergo affinity maturation and suggest that certain RF may be the product of an Ag-driven immune response.