The nature of the immune response to two conventional polysaccharide thymus-independent (TI) antigens was investigated in two RF-producing mouse strains, the 129/Sv and MRL/1 pr, as well as in their normal congenic counterparts, 129/J and MRL +/+ animals. An age-dependent variation of clones specific for the TI-2 antigens bacterial levan (BL) and alpha 1, 3 dextran B1355 (Dex) was observed in 129/J mice. Surprisingly, the anti-BL and anti-Dex responses observed for young (1-mo-old) 129/Sv mice far exceeded those of their age-matched controls indicating an accelerated ontogenic development of the immune response to TI-2 antigens. A poor response was observed for both MRL +/+ and MRL/1 pr mice after immunization with BL. More importantly, MRL mice, unlike other H-2k, Igh.Ca strains, were unresponsive to Dex in CFA or saline. MRL mice, however, could respond to the T-dependent form of this antigen, Dex-KLH, suggesting that these mice lack the subset of B cells required to respond to TI-2 antigens. Finally, the most striking observation was the occurrence of isotype-specific RF subsequent to immunization with these antigens in animals prone to develop RF, as well as in aged animals that do not spontaneously produce RF.

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