The binding specificity of rheumatoid factors (RFs) to human Fc resembles that of some microbial Fc-binding proteins, suggesting conformational similarities in their Fc-binding regions. Using polyclonal chicken antibodies against SPA, we have detected a crossreactive determinant shared by human RFs from different individuals, but not by non-RF IgM and IgG. Chicken anti-SPA was shown to bind to 18 of 19 IgM RFs and 2 of 2 IgG RFs isolated from different individuals. This binding was inhibitable with SPA, fragment D of SPA, human IgG, and Fc fragment of IgG. The binding site for RF was located on the Fab' fragment of chicken anti-SPA. The antigenic mimicry of RFs by a protein of microbial origin suggests that the immune response to infectious agents could induce or modulate RF production through an internal image autoantiidiotype mechanism.

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