B cell activation is associated with a marked transient rise in expression of the c-myc proto-onco-gene. A unique opportunity to examine the effects of constitutive c-myc expression upon B cell function is provided by transgenic mice in which the c-myc oncogene is regulated by the enhancer (E mu) from the immunoglobulin locus (E mu-myc mice). We have examined the immunologic competence of B cells from E mu-myc mice both in vitro and in vivo. Upon stimulation, many E mu-myc B cells can proliferate to form clones most of which contain antibody-forming cells. However, the frequency of responsive B cells from E mu-myc donors is only about 30% that of B cells from normal littermates. Thus, enforced myc expression is not sufficient to block the differentiation of all B cells, but a much larger fraction of the immunoglobulin-bearing cells from E mu-myc mice are incompetent. Upon immunization, E mu-myc mice mounted specific antibody responses, although some responses were delayed. Isotype switching can occur, since we observed hemolytic plaques of both IgM and IgG type and detected specific antibody of both classes in the serum. Moreover, the serum from nonimmunized E mu-myc mice contained normal levels of both IgM and IgG. Thus constitutive expression of the c-myc gene appears to retard B cell differentiation, but does not grossly impair immunologic function in the intact animal.

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