C3H/HeJ T cells which specifically recognize B cell-surface antigens of the related, major histocompatibility complex-compatible C3H/Tif strain, can be substantially enriched in vitro by long-term exposure (2--6 wk) of primed lymph node cells to the relevant cellular antigens. These enriched T cells contain functional helper cells as demonstrated by their capacity to induce large numbers of Ig-secreting plaque-forming cells (PFC) in cultures of antigenic B cells. The cooperative interaction results in activation of a large fraction of all splenic B cells, with consequent exponential growth and maturation to high rate secretion of IgM, IgG1, and IgG2, but not IgG3. The IgM PFC response includes antibody specificities to a number of different antigens and can be considered, therefore, as polyclonal. The T helper cell-dependent B-cell response is insensitive to inhibition by anti-delta antibodies, and in contrast with lipopolysaccharide-induced PFC responses, is only partially sensitive to the inhibitory effects of anti-mu antibodies. Finally, B-cell activation to growth and maturation by helper T cells strictly required direct T-cell recognition of antigens on the surface of responding B cells, leading us to the conclusions that if any soluble factors are generated in the collaborative process, they are either antigen specific or incompetent to initiate B-cell growth.

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