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Monoclonal antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor by a normally functioning auto-anti-idiotypic mechanism


Recently1 we described a procedure for preparing antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) based on immunoglobulin idiotypes and on the hypothesis that, regardless of functional differences, macromolecules of the same specificity will show structural homologies in their binding sites. Antibodies were prepared in rabbits to a structurally constrained agonist of AChR, trans-3,3′-bis[α-(trimethylammonio)methyl]azoben-zene bromide (BisQ)2,3. These antibodies mimicked the binding specificity of AChR in its activated state4—agonists were bound with affinities that were in accord with their biological activities and antagonists were bound poorly. Rabbits were then immunized with a specifically purified preparation of anti-BisQ to elicit a population of antibodies specific for the binding sites of anti-BisQ. A portion of the anti-idiotypic antibodies5,6 produced in the second set of rabbits cross-reacted with determinants on AChR preparations from Torpedo californica, Electrophorus electricus and rat muscle. Moreover, several of the rabbits showed signs of experimental myasthenia gravis, in which circulating AChR antibodies are typically found. To devise a more direct route to monoclonal anti-receptor antibodies we based our strategy on acceptance of the concept of the anti-idiotypic5,6 network theory of Jerne7. According to this theory, injection of an antigen elicits, in addition to antibodies to the antigen, other populations that include anti-idiotypic antibodies directed at the combining sites of the antigen-specific antibodies. If the antigen-specific antibodies recognize a ligand of a receptor, then the anti-idiotypic antibodies should bind receptor. Thus, when a mouse is immunized with a bovine serum albumin conjugate of BisQ (BisQ–BSA)1, it should be possible to expand populations of spleen cells that secrete antibodies which bind anti-BisQ and AChR, in addition to populations specific for BisQ. Fusion of the spleen cells with an appropriate myeloma line should yield monoclonal anti-AChR antibodies. Here we report the success of this approach and its implications.

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Cleveland, W., Wassermann, N., Sarangarajan, R. et al. Monoclonal antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor by a normally functioning auto-anti-idiotypic mechanism. Nature 305, 56–57 (1983).

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