Four T cell clones, isolated from Peyer's patches of keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH)-primed BALB/c mice, were selected on the basis of their ability to help IgA responses by TNP-KLH-primed BALB/c mouse B cells. Two were KLH-dependent both in terms of their own proliferative response and in terms of their help for that of B cells. The other two were autoreactive and helped B cells proliferate independently of the presence of Ag. Both primed and unprimed B cells proliferated to some extent when helped by the KLH-reactive clones in the presence of high concentrations of either KLH or TNP-KLH. Much higher proliferation was, however, induced when primed, but not unprimed, B cells were exposed to the T cells in the presence of low concentrations of TNP-KLH but not KLH, i.e., under conditions favoring direct, cognate interaction between the T and B cells. Only modest IgM, and no IgG or IgA plaque-forming cell (PFC) responses were generated by TNP-primed B cells upon interaction with either autoreactive T cells in the absence of Ag or KLH-reactive T cells in the presence of high concentrations of KLH. For high IgM responses as well as for the appearance of IgG and IgA PFC responses, TNP-KLH was required whatever the source of the T cell help. The isotype ratios depended on the TNP-KLH concentration; IgA responses were highest and IgM responses lowest at the lowest TNP-KLH concentrations suggesting that the precursors of the IgA PFC have higher average affinity for TNP than the precursors of IgM PFC. Overall, the results are compatible with the idea that the precursors of IgA and IgG PFC and many of the precursors of IgM PFC in the long term primed B cell populations used in these experiments require engagement of their Ag-receptors before they express sufficient class II Ag and/or receptors for "switch" and differentiation factors for cognate interaction with T cells leading to PFC responses.

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