Autoreactivity of primary human immunoglobulins ancestral to hypermutated human antibodies that neutralize HCMV.
The human antibody response to the AD-2S1 epitope of glycoprotein B (gB) of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is dominated by a family of closely related somatically mutated antibodies. These antibodies neutralize viral infectivity and the genes encoding them are derived from two commonly used germ-line variable (V) region genes, IGHV3-30 and IGKV3-11. Recombination of these V genes with the appropriate junctional diversity generates genes that encode primary immunoglobulins that bind to AD-2S1. To further understand the initial primary immunoglobulin response to AD-2S1 we synthesized the germ-line-based ancestor of one such family of antibodies and showed that it bound gB at the AD-2S1 epitope. Here we show that the germ-line ancestor of a second family of antibodies likewise binds to gB. We further show that one of the ancestral primary immunoglobulins, but not the other, also recognized autoantigens. In contrast, the hypermutated derivatives did not demonstrate autoreactivity and minor structural changes in the primary immunoglobulin were sufficient to generate or abolish autoreactivity or to change specificity. Thus, our demonstration that the ancestor of a highly mutated, non-autoreactive antiviral IgG antibody binds nuclear and cell-surface autoantigens indicates for the first time that self-reactivity is not necessarily a barrier to development into a follicular B lymphocyte that undergoes antigen-initiated affinity maturation.