These experiments tested the hypothesis that unmutated germline genes from normal mice can encode autoantibodies. We found that the unmutated VHIdCR gene segment, which encodes a large proportion of antiarsonate antibodies in A/J mice, also encodes antibodies with the ability to bind to DNA and cytoskeletal proteins. After Ars immunization, at a time when the VHIdCR gene segment mutates and antibody affinity for the hapten increases, reactivity with the autoantigens was lost. Six antibodies obtained after immunization with Ars bound both the Ars and DNA. Results of competitive inhibition assays suggested that the same variable region site in the antibodies bound to both Ars and DNA. The properties of the individual germline-encoded antibodies, which include reactivity to both DNA and cytoskeletal proteins, suggest that autoantibodies characteristic of SLE might be a subset of antibodies encoded by unmutated germline V genes.

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