This study was designed to determine whether natural immune responses could elicit immunoregulatory auto-antiidiotypic antibodies. Female rabbits heterozygous at the a and b Ig loci were bred to homozygous males. Offspring of one such breeding were studied for natural production of antibodies specific for the noninherited allotypes and for the production of immunoregulatory auto-antiidiotypic antibodies. All offspring mounted natural antiallotype responses. The anti-a1 responses cycled as a function of time whereas the anti-b5 responses were invariant. Anti-a1 responses from two offspring were shown to change specificity for different a1 subsets as they cycled. Anti-a1 was purified from the first cycle and was used to assay for auto-antiidiotypic responses. Auto-antiidiotypic antibodies were detected and were found to cycle in an inverse way with the anti-a1 cycles. The idiotopes detected using the natural auto-antiidiotypic antisera were strongly cross-reactive. Subsequent deliberate immunization showed that antibodies specific for all a1 subsets could be elicited after auto-antiidiotypic regulation had functioned. The data support the interpretation that idiotype network interactions indeed function in naturally occurring immunologic situations and are not merely laboratory curiosities or artifacts.

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