We have examined the ontogeny of BALB/c plaque-forming cell (PFC) responses to phosphorylcholine (PC) from fetal and neonatal liver by using the (CBA/N x BALB/c)F1 transplantation model. In this system, thymus-dependent (PC-keyhole limpet hemocyanin) and thymus-independent class 1 (PC-Brucella abortus, PC-lipopolysaccharide) PC antigens stimulate B cell subpopulations, which functionally emerge early after transfer. Responsiveness to a thymus-independent class 2 antigen, C-polysaccharide extract of a Streptococcus pneumoniae mutant, is acquired later. The response to PC antigens tested initially exhibited T15 dominance. Non-T15 clones, which are not expressed to a great degree in normal BALB/c mice, are inherently slow in their rate of maturation; in adoptive transfer, however, they eventually comprise much of the transplanted anti-PC PFC response. Obviously, the advantages the T15 subset has in ontogeny do not result in idiotypic dominance once the immature cells are removed from the intact BALB/c environment. We discuss possible regulatory mechanisms involved in the alteration of the T15+:T15- ratio.

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