The relative frequencies of IL-2-and IL-4-secreting precursors in naive and Ag-primed populations were investigated by using limiting dilution analysis. Cells capable of IL-4 production in lymphoid populations freshly isolated from mice were rare in comparison with those producing IL-2 when the cells were stimulated by nominal Ag, by alloantigens, or by mitogens. One cycle of in vitro Ag restimulation and rest, however, enabled us to detect high proportions of IL-4-secreting cells among keyhole limpet hemocyanin-primed lymph node cells. With cultures set up at monoclonal cell doses, it was shown that IL-2 and IL-4 are secreted by separate precursor populations at this stage of their development. The IL-4-secreting cells were further shown to be dependent upon the presence of IL-2, either secreted by separate precursors or exogenously added, for the production of detectable amounts of IL-4. Analysis of the frequencies of helper cells producing both IL-2 and IL-4 at various stages of the in vivo immune response and the requirements for their growth and differentiation should give a better understanding of the relative contributions of each cell type.

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