We have analyzed the relative contribution of dendritic cells (DC) and B cells in the presentation of peptide-class II complexes in an inflammatory situation in vivo. Draining lymph node cells from mice immunized subcutaneously with hen egg-white lysozyme (HEL) in adjuvant display HEL peptide-major histocompatibility complex class II complexes able to stimulate, in the absence of any further antigen addition, specific T hybridoma cells. The antigen-presenting capacity of three different antigen-presenting cell (APC) populations recruited in lymph nodes, DC (N418+, class II+, B220-, low buoyant density), large B cells (B220+, low buoyant density), and small B cells (B220+, high buoyant density), was analyzed. After immunization with HEL in adjuvant, DC are the only lymph node APC population expressing detectable HEL peptide-class II complexes. These results indicate that lymph node DC and not B cells are the APC initiating the immune response in vivo after administration of antigen in adjuvant.

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