Stable human antigen-specific monoclonal B cell lines were established without prior in vivo immunization. This was accomplished by expanding the anti-trinitrophenyl (TNP) B cells in vitro with the antigen TNP-Brucella abortus and then immortalizing them with Epstein-Barr virus. Five anti-TNP clones were selected by sequential limiting dilution. All five anti-TNP clones secreted IgM kappa antibodies. When tested against a panel of self and environmental antigens, all five anti-TNP clones exhibited cross-reactivity with an Escherichia coli-derived beta-galactosidase. To determine whether this was a more general phenomenon, a panel of murine monoclonals were tested and found to bind to beta-galactosidase. It is therefore possible that human and murine anti-TNP beta cell responses reflect reactivity against an environmental antigen, namely an epitope present on E. coli-derived beta-galactosidase. This approach of expanding human antigen-specific B cells by antigen stimulation in vitro, with a T-independent hapten-carrier conjugate before Epstein-Barr virus transformation, may prove useful in the development of human monoclonals for therapeutic purposes.

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