B lymphocytes bearing the Leu-1 cell-surface antigen (Leu-1+), the human equivalent of mouse Ly-1+ B lymphocytes, have been detected in human peripheral blood, but there is little information on their frequency and properties. Analysis by fluorescence-activated cell sorter and double immunofluorescence showed that Leu-1+ B cells are consistently present in the peripheral blood and spleens of healthy subjects and constitute 17.0±5.0% (mean value ± standard deviation) and 17.3±3.9%, respectively, of total B cells. When purified Leu-1+ and Leu-1 - B lymphocytes were transformed into immunoglobulin-secreting cells by infection with Epstein-Barr virus and the culture fluids were tested for reactivity with self-antigens, at least two important autoantibodies, antibody to the Fc fragment of human immunoglobulin G (rheumatoid factor) and antibody to single-stranded DNA, were found to be made exclusively by Leu-1+ B cells. It is concluded that the Leu-1+ lymphocytes represent a major subset of the normal human B cell repertoire and include the B cells capable of making autoantibodies similar to those found in systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
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