Human monoclonal antibodies (mAb) were produced by hybridomas derived from fusion of the GM4672 lymphoblastoid cell line and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from leprosy patients. Hybridoma supernatants were screened for immunoglobulin (Ig) secretion, binding to Mycobacterium leprae, phenolic glycolipid-I (Phen GL-I), the unique M. leprae glycolipid and single-stranded(ss)DNA by ELISA. On the basis of direct-binding ELISAs, two IgMk mAb (PR4 and TH3) were selected for characterization. PR4 and TH3 bound to M. leprae, Phen GL-I and ssDNA; PR4 also bound to M. avium and M. kansasii and TH3 to M. kansasii. Inhibition assays demonstrated that these antibodies did not bind to the terminal disaccharide of Phen GL-I. In addition, both PR4 and TH3 bound to several autoantigens: ssDNA, double-stranded(ds)DNA and poly(ADP-ribose) but not RNA. PR4 and TH3 were used for preparation of rabbit anti-idiotype antisera. Inhibition studies demonstrated that the affinity purified rabbit anti-idiotype antisera were specific for their respective idiotype and that both Phen GL-I and ssDNA inhibited binding of idiotype to its anti-idiotype. PR4, but not TH3, was found to be similar but not identical to the 16/6 idiotype originally identified on a human monoclonal anti-DNA antibody derived from a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).