Phytohemagglutinin (PHA) stimulated the rate of DNA synthesis in rabbit spleen cell suspensions. Unlike antigens, previous immunization to PHA was not necessary and the specific response could not be transferred by macrophages, although lymphocytes primed by incubation in PHA were able to stimulate other spleen cells not directly exposed to PHA. When rabbits were stimulated by in vivo immunization with antigens, spleen cells proliferating in response to antigen were stimulated to divide by in vitro contact with PHA.
Using the technique of specific hemolytic plaque formation by individual cells synthesizing γM-antibody to sheep red cells (plaque-forming cells), no evidence was obtained that stimulation of cell division by PHA resulted in specific antibody formation, although the presence of antigen resulted both in stimulation of cell proliferation and the production of plaque-forming cells. The presence of both sheep red cells and PHA in the medium of the same cell suspensions did not enhance the production of plaque-forming cells although there was a summative effect on DNA synthesis.