Monoclonal antibodies have been successfully used to identify B cell differentiation antigens, few of which mark discrete B cell subpopulations. We have produced a monoclonal antibody, HB-4, against a cell surface antigen on the human B cell line, BJAB, which has an unusual distribution on normal lymphoid cells. HB-4, an IgM antibody, was found to react with an antigen that is expressed by a subpopulation of B cells, approximately 50% of natural killer cells, and not by other types of cells in bone marrow, blood, and lymphoid tissues. In two-color immunofluorescence assays, the HB-4-reactive antigen was found on less than 5% of immature IgM+ B cells in fetal liver and bone marrow and on 25% of B cells in fetal spleen. The HB-4 antibody reacted with 40% of IgM+ cells in newborn blood and 60% of B cells in adult blood. In contrast, only 2 to 26% of IgM+ B cells in the peripheral lymphoid tissues of adults were HB-4+. HB-4+ B cells could be induced to proliferate by cross-linkage of their surface immunoglobulins but not by T cell-derived growth factors. The subpopulation of activated B cells that is responsive to T cell-derived differentiation factors was HB-4-, as were plasma cells. The HB-4 antibody was reactive with some but not all B cell malignancies and cell lines, and not with malignancies or cell lines of other lineages. The HB-4 antigen may therefore serve as a useful nonimmunoglobulin marker for the identification of a subpopulation of mature resting B cells that are present in the highest frequency in the circulation.

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