To evaluate the contribution of environmental regulatory mechanisms in fashioning the primary B cell repertoire, we have compared the repertoire of (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl)acetyl (NP)-specific primary splenic B cells with that of precursor cells present as surface immunoglobulin-negative (sIg-) cells in adult bone marrow of C.B20 (Ighb) mice. Previous analyses using a variety of antigens have led to the conclusion that the antibody repertoire expressed in the spleen is similar to that expressed in newly generated B cell precursors with respect to both repertoire diversity and the representation of various predominant clonotypes. However, in the response to NP of C.B20 precursor cells, two marked disparities have been identified between the repertoire of sIg- bone marrow cells vs splenic precursor cells. The first concerns precursor cells that give rise to lambda-bearing NP-specific antibodies with heteroclitic fine specificity. Such antibodies normally dominate the primary response of Ighb mice; however, the representation of precursor cells giving rise to lambda-bearing antibodies is disproportionately low in the sIg- bone marrow cell population of C.B20 mice. Thus, during the maturation of these cells, post-sIg receptor expression, there is an apparent increase in the proportionate representation of lambda-bearing NP-specific cells. The second disparity concerns precursor cells whose antibody products bear kappa-light chains and exhibit high affinity and homoclitic binding for the NP haptenic determinant. Such precursor cells are poorly represented in the spleen, but represent a sizeable proportion of the sIg- NP-specific precursor cell population. Thus, there seems to be a selective elimination of high affinity, kappa-homoclitic anti-NP antibody-bearing cells as they acquire their sIg receptors. The elimination of this cell population could partially account for the dominance of lambda-heteroclitic antibodies in the serum responses to NP of C.B20 mice.

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