The antibody response of C57BL/6 strain mice to Streptococcus pneumoniae R36a (Pn) is dominated by the T15 idiotype, but the responding cells appear to be idiotypically heterogeneous, in that individual antibody plaque-forming cells (PFC) may express some but not all idiotopes (Id) of the T15 complex. The presence of these distinct Id on the PFC was detected by a plaque-inhibition assay with three different monoclonal anti-Id antibodies, designated AB1-2, MaId5-4, and B36-82. A periodic change in the expression of AB1-2 and MaId5-4 Id was observed during primary (IgM) antibody response to Pn in the spleen. Those two Id were poorly expressed in the log phase of the response between day 2 and day 4 after immunization (few PFC in the spleen bore the Id), but they became detectable on the majority of PFC at the peak of the response, day 5 to day 7. The proportion of the Id-(AB1-2 or MaId5-4) positive PFC declined, again at day 10 after immunization. In contrast, the B36-82 Id was expressed on greater than or equal to 80% PFC throughout the entire primary response. The possibility that the apparent changes in the Pn-reactive cell populations are regulated by autologous anti-Id T cells was tested in vitro. Normal, unimmunized B cells were cultured with Pn, either alone or in the presence of syngeneic T cells isolated from the spleen of mice at the appropriate intervals after immunization: day 2 (T2), day 5 (T5), and days 10 to 14 (T10 to T14); T cells from unimmunized donors (T0) served as a control. The specific response after 4 days in culture was determined in regard to the total PFC as well as the proportion of PFC expressing the Id. Pn-stimulated B cells, alone or with the control T0 cells, produced moderate, variable levels of AB1-2+ and MaId5-4+ PFC. The expression of these two Id in the assay cultures was suppressed by addition of either T2 cells or T10-14 cells, but it was enhanced if T5 cells were added. However, these various T cell populations did not differ in their effect on the total PFC response. Also, the proportion of PFC bearing the third Id, B36-82 was high, and it was not consistently influenced by the added T cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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