In rabbits nearly all B lymphocytes express the glycoprotein CD5, in contrast to mice and humans, where only a small proportion of B cells express this molecule (Raman, C., and K.L. Knight. 1992. J. Immunol. 149:3858-3864). CD5+ B cells appear to develop early in ontogeny and be maintained throughout life by self-renewal. The function of CD5 on B cells is still unknown. We showed earlier that "positive" selection occurs during B lymphocyte development in the rabbit appendix. This selection favors B cell expressing surface immunoglobulins with VHa2 structures in the first and third framework regions (Pospisil, R., G.O. Young-Cooper, and R.G. Mage. 1995. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 92:6961-6965). Here we report that F(ab')2 fragments, especially those bearing VHa2 framework region determinants, specifically interact with the B cell-surface glycoprotein CD5. This interaction can be inhibited by anti-CD5 antibodies. Furthermore, immobilized F(ab')2 fragments selectively bind CD5 molecules in appendix cell lysates. Interactions of VH framework region structures with CD5 may affect maintenance and selective expansion of particular B cells and thus contribute to autostimulatory growth of autoimmune or transformed cells.

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