In this report we describe conditions for polyclonal activation of small numbers of highly purified mouse B lymphocytes. Three signals are required for induction of DNA synthesis by the particular subset of small B lymphocytes investigated: a signal delivered by antibodies specific for the IgM receptor expressed on the B cell membrane; a signal delivered by a T cell-derived factor (B cell growth factor [BCGF]); and a signal delivered by the macrophage-derived factor interleukin 1 (IL-1). The conclusion that IL-1 has B cell co-stimulator activity is based on the findings that highly purified preparations of mouse and human IL-1 have the capacity to cause proliferation in B cells treated with anti-IgM and BCGF. Such cultures show an absolute dependence on exogenously added IL-1 when 2-mercaptoethanol is omitted from the medium. BCGF and IL-1 each act in a non-antigen-specific, non-H-2-restricted, synergistic manner. Their requirement is not observed when B cells are cultured at high density, presumably reflecting accessory cell contamination and endogenous factor production under these conditions. The B cell activation induced by these three signals is restricted to proliferation without the production of antibody-forming cells.

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