Transfer of spleen cells from mice immunized against sheep red blood cells (SRBC) into irradiated (600 R) nonimmune, syngeneic mice in the presence of antigen resulted in excessive cellular 7S production 7 days later. The number of 7S plaque-forming cells usually exceeded 106 per spleen and the mean proportion varied between 1 and 70%. In occasional animals all spleen cells were producing antibodies to SRBC. Serum antibody synthesis was also excessively increased, the titers in agglutination after 2-ME treatment and in hemolysis varying between 215 and 225. The generation time of the 7S PFC was found to be 9.6 hr in the secondary hosts.
It seemed possible that the excessive production of 7S PFC and antibodies in the irradiated nonimmune recipients was caused by the absence of feedback inhibition of the immune response by antibody, a mechanism which would normally function to restrict antibody synthesis. This conclusion was strengthened by the demonstration that transfer of antigen-stimulated immune cells into actively or passively immunized irradiated recipients resulted in a marked suppression of cellular 7S synthesis. Serial transfers of antigen-stimulated immune cell populations in irradiated hosts resulted in an equally high number of 7S PFC during the first four transfer generations. However, after the fifth to seventh transfer generation the number of 7S PFC rapidly declined and disappeared within one to three passages. Serum antibodies and 7S PFC declined in parallel during the last transfer generations. Further passages of antigen-stimulated spleen cells lacking 7S PFC did not lead to reappearance of PFC. Thus, antigen-sensitive cells have a limited lifespan and/or multiplication capacity. From the hypothesis that the 7S PFC developed by division from antigen-sensitive precursors it was calculated that 38–40 divisions occurred, Thus, one antigen-sensitive precursor has the potential to give rise to 1012 7S PFC.