Resting B cells enlarge, enter the cell cycle, and change their surface phenotype when activated via the surface immunoglobulin (Ig) receptor, but subsequent cell growth and antibody production is relatively limited. To identify stimuli that might prime B cells for enhanced function in vitro, we have compared the effects of anti-Ig with helper T (Th) cells on the formation of B lymphoblasts and the subsequent ability of the blasts to grow and secrete Ig. The B blasts first were induced by either anti-Ig, anti-Ig plus T cell-derived lymphokines, or alloreactive T blasts. Each population of B blasts showed enhanced expression of cell surface adhesion molecules, interleukin 2 receptor (IL-2R) p55, and MHC products, as well as decreased expression of IgD. The allo-activated B blasts were distinctive in expressing low levels of Thy-1 and increased reactivity with peanut agglutinin, a marker of germinal center B blasts in situ. The function of the different populations of B blasts was also different. Whereas anti-Ig or anti-Ig plus lymphokines primed for enhanced responses to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the B blasts induced by Th cells were insensitive to LPS. B lymphoblasts that had been activated in the presence of helper factors or Th cells responded vigorously to recombinant IL-2 with growth and Ig secretion, and this response was enhanced in the presence of anti-Ig. The B blasts activated directly by Th cells, but not by anti-Ig plus lymphokines, were primed to secrete high levels of IgG1 and IgA. Therefore, the phenotype and function of a B lymphoblast depends upon the manner in which it is primed. When primed by Th cells, IL-2 proves to be the predominant mediator of clonal expansion and antibody secretion.

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