A monoclonal anti-idiotypic antibody has been raised that recognizes Igs with heavy chains encoded by a member of the VH4 family, the VH4–21 gene segment. The idiotope (Id) is detectable on a high percentage of early B cells in fetal spleen, and is expressed by certain autoantibodies, particularly cold-reactive anti-red blood cell antibodies. Therefore, it was of interest to investigate usage of this VH gene by neoplastic B cells; 81 chronic lymphocytic leukemias (CLLs) involving CD5+ B cells and 62 B-cell lymphomas of varying histologic type have been analyzed. The Id was expressed by only 3 of 81 (3.7%) of the CLLs, indicating a relatively low usage by these tumors. In contrast, the Id was expressed by 9 of 62 (14.5%) of the lymphomas across a range of histologic types, indicating a differential use of the VH4–21 gene among B-cell neoplasms. For three of the Id-positive lymphomas, each of a different histologic class, the nucleotide sequence of the tumor-derived VH gene was determined; the VH4–21 gene was identified, as expected. The sequence from the CLL was identical to the germline sequence, and the marginal zone lymphoma showed only 3 nucleotide changes, 2 of which gave rise to amino acid substitutions. In contrast, the sequence from the follicular lymphoma showed 29 nucleotide changes giving rise to 14 amino acid substitutions, which were scattered among the CDR and FW regions.

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