Rheumatoid factors (RFs) are autoantibodies directed against IgG molecules. They are present in increased quantity in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and are implicated in tissue damage in this disease. Paradoxically, recent studies of RFs have revealed that these autoantibodies are likely a physiological component of the immune system, and may play a role in the development and function of the B cell repertoire. Previously, we found that a significant fraction of RA patients express RF bearing the 6B6.6 cross-reactive idiotype, which is a phenotyplc marker of the Humkv328-like genes. In order to elucidate the possible genetic factors that may contribute to the abnormal production of RFs in RA patients, we studied restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP) of four highly homologous RF-related kappa light chain variable region (Vk) genes (i.e. Humkv328, Humkv328h2, Humkv328h5 and Humkv329) in RA patients and normal controls. The results show that kv328, kv328h2 and kv329 are likely to be alleles of the kv328 locus, while kv328h5 is a highly homologous Vk gene residing in a separate locus; and that deletion in one copy of either the kv328 or the kv328h5 loci, but not both loci, occurs in several individuals. However, the frequencies of various RFLP patterns of these two Vk gene loci are similar in patients and normals. © 1991.