To determine how the memory B cell population elicited to one epitope might be used in immune responses to other, structurally related epitopes, we explored the phenomenon of original antigenic sin. Strain A/J mice reproducibly respond to immunization with p-azophenylarsonate (Ars) by production of anti-Ars antibodies encoded predominantly by a single VH gene segment (VHIdCR). The structural analogue of Ars p-azophenylsulfonate (Sulf) fails alone to elicit such V regions, but can do so in A/J mice previously immunized with Ars, providing a means to specifically examine B cells capable of responding secondarily to a crossreactive antigen (i.e., memory cells). VHIdCR-expressing hybridomas were derived from the Ars-primed, Sulf-boosted original antigenic sin response of A/J mice at various times after Ars priming, and the properties of the antibodies they express and the structure of the genes encoding these antibodies were characterized. The data obtained support the following conclusions: (a) The Ars-induced memory B cell population capable of being crossreactively stimulated by Sulf is largely formed from a small fraction of all B cells participating in the anti-Ars primary response that express somatically mutated V regions; (b) the antibody repertoire and clonal composition of this population are stable over long periods of time; (c) memory B cells are capable of clonal expansion in the absence of a high rate of V gene somatic mutation; (d) the activation requirements for clonal selection of memory, versus naive B cells appear to differ; and (e) a major fraction of Ars-induced memory B cells express either IgM or IgG3 prior to and during the initial stages of the sin response.

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