Understanding the molecular basis of DNA recognition by anti-DNA autoantibodies is a key element in defining the role of antibody·DNA complexes in the pathogenesis of the autoimmune disorder systemic lupus erythematosus. As part of our efforts to relate anti-DNA affinity and specificity to antibody structure, and ultimately to disease pathogenesis, we have generated a panel of eight anti-DNA mAbs from an autoimmune MRL MpJ- lpr/lpr mouse and have assessed the binding properties of these antibodies. We find that none of our anti-DNA mAbs bind to RNA and only one low-affinity mAb cross-reacts with non-DNA antigens, albeit weakly. None of the mAbs in our panel bind double-stranded DNA exclusively. Antibodies that recognize single-stranded DNA can be categorized into two groups based on their affinity and apparent mode of binding. One group possesses relatively high affinity for oligo(dT) and may recognize single-stranded DNA ligands by accommodating thymine bases in hydrophobic pockets on the antigen binding site. The second group binds more weakly, apparently recognizes single- stranded DNA nonspecifically, and in some cases also binds double-stranded DNA. Although different mechanisms are used for binding single- and double- stranded ligands, the mode of DNA recognition appears conserved within groups of antibodies.
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