In this study, the order of appearance of B cell precursors responding to different phosphorylcholine (PC) antigens was investigated. Cells from neonatal BALB/c mice were transferred to male (CBA/N X BALB/c)F1 immunodeficient mice, and splenic fragment cultures were set up at different times after transfer. Because Xid F1 mice are unable to mount a primary anti-PC response, the time to prepare fragment cultures after cell transfer could be prolonged. This created an expanded maturation effect in which small differences in the response pattern of different precursor subsets are amplified. Splenic fragment cultures containing neonatal precursors were immunized with PG-TGG-HY (TD antigen), PnC (TI-2 antigen), or PC-TGG-LPS (TI-1 antigen), or with combinations of these antigens. The in vitro responses to these antigens were found to be additive, indicating the existence of different subpopulations. The detected precursors were also analyzed with respect to the T15 idiotype, which is the normally dominant idiotype of the response against PC in BALB/c mice. The analysis demonstrated a distinctly different maturation sequence of the three B cell subsets in which the order of appearance is: TI-1, TD, and TI-2 responding precursors. The T15 idiotype is expressed dominantly in all stages except the early stage of the TI-1 precursors.

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