In essential mixed, type II, cryoglobulinaemia (EMC) monoclonal autoantibodies with rheumatoid factor activity are synthesized at an accelerated rate by non-malignant B lymphocytes. In order to determine if the high cryoglobulin production rate is related to a clonal B cell expansion, cell surface markers of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) were analysed by flow cytometry and the rearrangement of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes was investigated by Southern blot analysis of DNA extracted from the PBL of 12 EMC patients. Clonal expansion of B cells could be detected using DNA probes specific for the c kappa, c-mu, and JH genes in four out of 12 patients, two of whom also showed specific expansions of mu heavy and kappa light chain bearing cells using flow cytometry. The rearrangement of the c-myc locus was also noted in one of the patients with detectable Ig gene rearrangements. Demonstration of clonal B cell expansions in EMC patients shows that the clonal type of Ig gene rearrangements are not unique markers of malignant lymphomas but may also occur in autoimmune lymphoproliferative disorders. Since malignant B cell lymphomas can develop in a small number of EMC cases, the follow-up of these patients should be pursued indefinitely
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