The genetic mechanism responsible for the somatic diversification of two mAbs was determined. The two PC-binding hybridomas were representative of events early and late in the immune response. The P28 cell line that produces an IgM antibody and thus represents events early in the immune response, was found to have 3 bp changes in its heavy chain variable (VH) region, with some changes in antibody affinity or specificity. The RP93 cell line that produces an IgG2a antibody and thus represents later events in the immune response, was found to have 9 bp changes in its VH region resulting in decreased affinity for PC and altered specificity. Oligonucleotides specific for linked base changes in the second hypervariable regions of both of these antibodies were used to look for previously undescribed V regions or other donor sequences that could have been responsible for these base changes. Since no donor sequences were found, we have concluded that somatic point mutation rather than gene conversion, V region replacement or the expression of an unidentified germline VH region gene is truly responsible for at least some of the somatic diversification of these antibodies.

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