The kinetics of cellular commitment in the stimulation of lymphocytes by concanavalin A (Con A) has been analyzed by measurement of DNA synthesis, autoradiography, and histologic staining techniques. If the competitive inhibitor α-methyl-D-mannoside (αMM) is introduced into cultures of mouse spleen cells at various times after the addition of Con A, there is a gradual decrease in its capacity to inhibit the lectin-stimulated incorporation of [3H]thymidine. Addition of the saccharide 20 h after exposure of the cells to Con A had no effect on the level of the cellular response to the lectin. With increasing periods of contact with Con A, the percentage of blast cells and the percentage of [3H]thymidine-labeled blast cells increased in parallel with the total radioactive thymidine incorporated while the average number of autoradiographic grains per labeled blast cell remained relatively constant. These observations suggest that the rising level of [3H]thymidine incorporation results from an increase in the number of cells that respond to lectin stimulation and become refractory to inhibition with αMM. Once such cells become committed, they synthesize DNA at a rate independent of the length of exposure to the lectin. The combined results indicate that mouse splenic lymphocytes are heterogeneous in their capacities to respond to Con A and that different cells require different induction periods to be stimulated.

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