Rheumatoid factors: host resistance or autoimmunity?

Clin Immunol. 2002 Jul;104(1):1-13. doi: 10.1006/clim.2002.5210.


Rheumatoid factors (RFs), autoantibodies that bind to the Fc portion of IgG, are important in the immune response. RF-committed B-cells exist in the circulating lymphocyte pool in a high frequency (approximately 1-2 %) in normal individuals and in patients with pathological conditions associated with the sustained levels of circulating RF, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren's syndrome (SS), and mixed cryoglobulinemia, associated with hepatitis C virus infection. RFs are induced by many infectious entities (viruses, bacteria, parasites) as a consequence of a secondary immune response to the pathogen, but usually the response is transient. It is likely that RFs play an important role in the host's defense against infection, both at the cellular level, where the RF B-cell can be an antigen presenting cell which can promote the antipathogen response, and at the humoral level, where RFs can contribute to the mopping up of the IgG antipathogen antibodies by contributing to immune complex formation and clearance. There has been much research on RFs in chronic pathological conditions, and the literature pertaining to their origin, structure, binding specificities, and possible roles in disease are discussed. The importance of the host defense, sometimes at the expense of an autoimmune response, is a balance that needs to be considered in light of a possible outcome of health or disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Cryoglobulinemia / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Rheumatoid Factor / immunology*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / immunology


  • Rheumatoid Factor