IgG1 immune complexes were identified as the humoral stimuli responsible for the synthesis of IgG1-specific IgM rheumatoid factor (RF), which occurs in the mouse during the early stages of secondary immune responses to protein antigens. The specificity of this phenomenon was illustrated by the fact that complexes made with IgG1 F(ab')2 fragments or with antibodies of a different isotype failed to induce significant anti-IgG1 RF synthesis. The importance of immune complexes in the induction of RF was further underscored by the substantial increase in the titers of isotype-specific RF observed in the serum of mice immunized with IgG1- or IgG2a-complexed antigen rather than with antigen alone. The RF-inducing capacity of the complexes varied with the antigen/antibody ratio: it was maximal in antibody excess or at equivalence, but dramatically reduced in large antigen excess. The importance of T cell priming in RF precursor cell activation by immune complexes was demonstrated by the failure of T cell-deprived spleen cells to reconstitute the capability of irradiated mice to produce RF, and by the optimal RF responses observed after reconstitution of irradiated recipients with primed T cells and naive B cells. The involvement of T cells in this process could not be explained by the release of nonspecific B cell activators, because antigenic stimulation of primed T cells failed to enhance the activation of RF precursor cells by immune complexes of unrelated antigen.

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