The B-cell mitogens lipopolysaccharide (LPS), Nocardia water-soluble mitogen (NWSM), and dextran sulfate (DxS) react with different subpopulations of B lymphocytes. Selective in vitro killing of cells responding to either LPS or NWSM has little effect on the in vitro response to the other mitogen, although the response to DxS is reduced in both cases. If, after selective in vitro killing, cells are injected into irradiated mice for 2-3 wk before measuring their in vitro mitogen responses, the same specificity pattern is seen. Thus, one is dealing with different B-cell subpopulations rather than different stages of maturation of a single population. Treatment with various alloantisera and complement before measuring the mitogen response to LPS and NWSM shows that (a) whereas all LPS response cells carry surface Ig, a subpopulation of NWSM responsive cells does not; (b) both LPS- and NWSM-responsive cells carry I-A antigens but might not I-E or I-J antigens; (c) all LPS-responsive cells carry I-C antigens, whereas approximately 25% of NWSM responsive cells do not: (d) there is a subpopulation of NWSM-responsive cells carrying neither surface Ig nor I-C antigens and resistant to anti-theta treatment.

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