The purified protein derivative of tuberculin (PPD tuberculin) stimulates approximately one of two lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated B-cell blasts of C57BL/6J nu/nu spleen cells to continued clonal growth and maturation to IgM and IgG secretion. It alwo stimulates background, in vivo-activated large cells of normal C57BL/6J nu/nu spleen to growth and Ig secretion, at a frequency of approximately 1 of 100 large spleen cells. PPD tuberculin, therefore, is a polyclonal B-cell activator for B-cell blasts. Many single murine splenic B cells (approximately 50%) appear to have reactivities, and therefore probably receptors, for LPS and PPD tuberculin. PPD tuberculin does not stimulate small, resting B cells to growth as measured by the number of cells in culture and by thymidine uptake. However, it stimulates approximately one-fourth of all spleen cells to blast transformation. The large-size blast cells secrete IgM and, therefore, form plaques in the protein A plaque assay. IgG-secreting, plaque-forming cells develop at later stages of stimulation, indicating that the switch from IgM to IgG may occur without division in single, stimulated B cells. Stimulation of resting B cells to maturation by PPD tuberculin is polyclonal. Thus, approximately 1 in 10(2) IgM-secreting plaque-forming cells form plaques with trinitrophenyl-substituted sheep erythrocytes, 1 in 450 do so with horse erythrocytes, and 1 in 10(3) with sheep erythrocytes. Furthermore, the number of Ig-secreting cells developing from small, resting cells without growth in cultures with or without filler thymus cells suggests polyclonal activation by PPD tuberculin to maturation only of at least one out of four small, splenic B cells.

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