MRL-lpr/lpr mice spontaneously develop an autoimmune disease resembling systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. One of the unique serological abnormalities in this strain is remarkably high concentrations of cryoglobulins. Analysis of immunoglobulin components in their cryoglobulins has shown selective enrichment of a particular IgG subclass, IgG3. As IgG3 enrichment is also found in two other cryoglobulins, which are induced after injection with bacterial lipopolysaccharides or infection with malaria, IgG3 apparently represents a major source of murine cryoglobulins. Studies on murine IgG3 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have clearly shown that murine IgG3 have the unique physiochemical property to self associate through non-specific IgG3 Fc-Fc interaction, and that most of them can generate monoclonal cryoglobulins. Most strikingly, IgG3 monoclonal cryoglobulins with rheumatoid factor (RF) activity induce extensive pathological manifestations: skin vascular purpura and glomerulonephritis with 'wire loop' lesions. Although the cryoglobulin activity of IgG3 RF mAb is solely responsible for the generation of glomerular lesions (both RF and cryoglobulin activities are necessary for skin vascular lesions), the absence of nephritogenic activity by some IgG3 cryoglobulins supports the idea that qualitative features of cryoglobulins are critical to determine their pathogenic activity. The demonstration of a positive correlation between the production of IgG3 cryoglobulins and the development of lupus nephritis in MRL-lpr/lpr mice further substantiates the pathological importance of cryogenic autoantibodies. On the other hand, it should be emphasised that non-cryogenerating IgG3 autoantibodies may not be harmful, but even protective, as a result of their interaction with pathogenic IgG3 cryoglobulins.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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