Rheumatoid factors in the sera of patients with rheumatoid arthritis appear to be specifically directed against genetically determined "antigens" in human γ-globulin. At least eight rheumatoid factors of differing specificity exist; usually several are present in combination in the same serum. The different rheumatoid factors can be readily detected through their pattern of reactivity with anti-Rh antibodies from different individuals. Rheumatoid factors in diseases other than rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a more restricted specificity, contrasted to the broader reactivity of the factors in most rheumatoid arthritis sera. A specificity similar to that for incomplete antibodies was not demonstrated for the reaction of rheumatoid factors with aggregated γ-globulin or with γ-globulin to form the "22S complex."
In certain instances, using the anti-Rh system, rheumatoid factors were found to react poorly with the patient's own γ-globulin, compared to that of other individuals of different genetic γ-globulin types. These results, as well as additional indirect evidence, indicate that the rheumatoid factors can possess isospecificity. However, a certain degree of autospecificity was also found which was most clearly evident through complex formation with the patients own γ-globulin and in the reaction with aggregates. The relevance of these findings to possible isoantibody as well as autoantibody concepts is discussed.