In the presence of pokeweed mitogen (PWM), T helper (TH) cell clones can induce differentiation of a very high proportion of normal B lymphocytes into plasmocytes. This property can be used to test TH cell function regardless of clonal specificity. We have investigated the role of L3T4 surface antigen in this new assay. Only TH cell clones expressing the L3T4 antigen have effector activity in this PWM-dependent helper assay; L3T4- TH cell variants are inactive. The involvement of L3T4 antigen is further shown by the ability of anti-L3T4 monoclonal antibody to inhibit the PWM-dependent polyclonal B cell differentiation induced by L3T4+ TH cell clones. This inhibition is not the consequence of arrested TH cell activation, nor of a lack of appropriate B cell stimulation by TH cell lymphokines. We show that PWM focuses TH cells on the B cell hybridoma LB15-13, and that anti-L3T4 mAb prevents the T-B cell clustering mediated by PWM. Thus, by a mechanism comparable with the one described for concanavalin A in the cytotoxicity assay, PWM acts by bridging TH cells and B cells; the T cell surface antigen L3T4 is involved in this process.

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