The activation of small, resting B cells for antibody synthesis by helper T cells has been proposed to require an MHC-restricted interaction between the T and B cells. Large, activated B lymphocytes were, in contrast, thought to be activated by an unrestricted pathway. We re-examined this issue and found that both large and small size fractionated murine B lymphocytes required an MHC-restricted interaction with helper T cells to be activated for specific antibody synthesis. Polyspecific antibody synthesis in the same cultures was not dependent upon an MHC-restricted T-B interaction for any size category of B cell. These results are interpreted as reflecting the ability of antigen-specific B cells to focus and present antigen to T cells, in contrast to B cells of random specificity, which have no effective focusing mechanism for a given experimental antigen. We found that the polyspecific response required much higher antigen concentrations than the antigen-specific response, a result consistent with the antigen-focusing hypothesis.

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