Mice have more than 1000 VH gene segments, and each pre-B cell must choose a single one for rearrangement to encode the V portion of the antibody H chain. Presumably, all or most of the functional VH gene segments must be chosen by the population of B lymphocytes if the organism is to express the diversity that is observed in the immune system. Control of the selection of a VH gene segment for expression is not understood. We have found that the members of the VH gene family closest to the constant genes, the 7183 family, are transcribed in a manner that is specific for the stage of B cell development after pre-B cells derived from spleens of 6- to 8-wk-old nude mice are induced to differentiate in vitro by a mixture of dendritic cells and mitogen-activated T lymphocytes (DC-T). DC-T from spleens and lymph nodes induce transient high levels of synthesis of RNA from the 7183 VH family, whereas DC-T from Peyer's patches of mice of the same age as those from which spleen and lymph node DC-T were prepared did not induce the expression of RNA from that gene family. Spleen and Peyer's patch DC-T induce secretion of similar total amounts of antibody. Therefore, the RNA synthesis from members of at least one VH gene family is specific both for the lymphoid tissue in which B cell differentiation occurs and for the developmental stage of the B lymphoid cells.

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