Distinct populations of human B lymphocytes can be identified by their expression and/or co-expression of the B cell-restricted antigens B1 and B2. Dual fluorochrome staining and flow cytometric cell sorting permitted the isolation of the B1+B2+ and B1+B2- cells to homogeneity. In contrast, very few B1-B2+ cells were obtainable from normal lymphoid organs. Virtually all B1+B2+ cells expressed IgM and IgD, but lacked IgG and the plasma cell antigens PCA-1 and PC-1, whereas the B1+B2- cells more frequently expressed IgG, PCA-1 and PC-1. Both populations were noncycling and were composed of similar percentages of small and large cells. The B1+B2+ cells proliferate to anti-mu or to anti-mu + PHA-LCM, but not to PHA-LCM alone. They require both T cells and PWM to produce Ig. In contrast, B1+B2-cells do not significantly proliferate to anti-mu, PHA-LCM, or anti-mu and PHA-LCM. They produce Ig in response to T cells alone without PWM. These phenotypic and functional observations provide preliminary evidence that these populations are distinct and that the B1+B2+ cell may be a "resting" B cell, whereas the B1+B2- cell appears to be more "differentiated." The present studies further suggest that they will also be helpful in characterizing B cells in some human disease states. We believe that the identification and isolation of these and similar subsets of B cells defined by differing cell surface phenotype should aid our understanding both of normal B cell differentiation and of B cell disease states.

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