Mouse spleen lymphoblasts induced with lipopolysaccharide and fetal calf serum were obtained in high yield and purity in their first proliferative cell cycle by floatation in dense bovine plasma albumin columns (3). The blasts were maintained in vitro for 3 more days. The cultures were examined in bulk on each day, and in addition, those cells in S phase initially were tagged with [(3)H]thymidine and followed continuously in vitro.
Grain count dilution data indicated that most blasts divided but twice over a 2- to 3-day interval in vitro. [(3)H]Thymidine pulse radiolabeling and flow microfluorometry suggested that at least 50-70 percent of the proliferating blasts withdrew from proliferative activity after 2-3 days of culture.
Morphologic studies demonstrated that lymphoblasts persisted as such for 1-2 days in vitro and then matured into typical plasma cells. Many of the blastprogeny had small nuclei and considerable basophilic cytoplasm on Giemsa-stained cell smears; abundant rough endoplasmic reticulum by electron microscopy; and readily detectable cytoplasmic Ig by immunocytochemistry. Reversion of blasts to small lymphocytes could not be detected; however, some blasts persisted even after 3 days of culture.
The viability of the cultured lymphoblast was followed by initially tagging the cells with [(3)H]thymidine as well as several other techniques. Little cell death was documented during the first day of culture. The number of labeled progeny increased twofold whereas the grain count halved. But 40- 50 percent of the cell-associated label was lost during each of the second and third days, and fewer labeled progeny than predicted by grain count dilution were identified. The culture medium could not be implicated in this loss of lymphoblast progeny, and we suggest that the maturation of the lymphoblast to a short-lived plasma cell was responsible.
Therefore mitogen-stimulated B blasts seem to mature into typical plasma cells after just two cycles of cell division. The plasma cells resemble those produced in situ during an immune response in their cytologic features, withdrawal from active proliferative activity, and short life-span.