Among the rheumatoid factors (RFs), monospecific and polyspecific types can be distinguished. However the molecular basis responsible for their different specificity is not well understood. In a previous report, we have shown that the binding of the majority of the polyspecific antibodies is salt-sensitive. No binding to IgG was observed under high ionic strength (0.3-0.5 M NaCl). This salt-sensitivity was only observed for 18% of the monospecific RFs. Here, we have analyzed 14 RFs representing the 3 different groups (6 salt-insensitive monospecific, 4 salt-sensitive monospecific and 4 salt-sensitive polyspecific RFs). By analysis of the amino acid composition and the distribution of polar and non-polar residues of their heavy chain complementarity-determining region 3 (H-CDR3) in relation to mono/polyspecificity, salt-sensitivity and reactivity against human IgG subclasses, we have identified common structural features responsible for their different binding properties. Salt-sensitive RFs (mono as well as polyspecific antibodies) were characterized by long H-CDR3's (15.3+/-2.7) that contained large numbers of hydrophilic residues such as arginine and serine, while salt-insensitive RFs had more hydrophobic H-CDR3's of smaller length (11.3+/-2.4). In addition, for the monospecific RFs, remarkably similar hydrophilicity H-CDR3 profiles were found that were correlated with their specificity for IgG subclasses. These observations confirm the importance of the H-CDR3 for the binding of RFs to IgG. Furthermore, on the basis of their shorter H-CDR3's and their rather unique H-CDR3 hydrophilicity profiles, it is likely that the majority of the monospecific RFs should be considered as a group of RFs that is independent of the polyspecific RF repertoire.