Natural antibodies provide an early defense mechanism against pathogens, show a frequent self-reactivity, and are present throughout life. Two questions concern the physiological control of self-reactivity and the pathogenetic link to autoimmune disease. Here we propose a concept of conditional autoimmunity involving natural antibodies against the alpha chain of the high-affinity receptor for IgE (Fc(epsilon)RIalpha ). Like other natural antibodies, anti-Fc(epsilon)RIalpha antibodies are found in sera of healthy donors. We now report the first human recombinant anti-Fc(epsilon)RIalpha autoantibodies isolated by repertoire cloning from a human tonsillar IgM library. These high-affinity antibodies recognize Fc(epsilon)RIalpha on cells and trigger histamine release from freshly isolated blood basophils. However, the latter effect requires IgE removal from the Fc(epsilon)RI. The same conditional histamine release is seen when using sera from individual normal donors and affinity-purified anti-Fc(epsilon)RIalpha antibodies isolated from multidonor therapeutic IgG preparations. We propose that such anti-Fc(epsilon)RIalpha antibodies can become pathogenic and that this is dependent on the state of occupancy of the Fc(epsilon)RIalpha by its natural ligand IgE. We suggest that an imbalance between Fc(epsilon)RIalpha occupancy and natural anti-Fc(epsilon)RIalpha antibodies may be implicated in the pathogenesis of autoimmune urticaria.