The splenic focus assay was used to clone B cells from neonatal, adult and xid mice in order to examine their primary and secondary responses to (T,G)-A--L. Adult precursor cell frequencies to (T,G)-A--L were achieved late in neonatal ontogeny. Primary xid B cells responded to DNP-HY but not to (T,G)-A--L in the splenic focus assay. The frequency of secondary B cells from (T,G)-A--L-primed xid mice was less than or equal to 10% that of secondary B cells from wild-type (non-xid or X/Xxid heterozygous) mice. Although xid B cells were poorly responsive to (T,G)-A--L in the splenic focus assay, (T,G)-A--L-primed xid mice could provide help as recipients for stimulation of wild-type primary and secondary B cells. It seems likely that the B2 subset contributes most of the splenic focus response to (T,G)-A--L. The fine specificities of antibodies produced by neonatal, xid, and adult (wild-type) B cell clones were analyzed using analogues of (T,G)-A--L. A specificity shift was observed between the adult primary and secondary antibody responses to (T,G)-A--L. Less than 10% of adult primary clones produced antibodies cross-reactive on (Phe,G)-A--L (recognizing A--L determinants or Phe,Glu determinants), whereas more than 70% of primary clones produced Tyr,Glu side-chain specific antibodies cross-reactive on GT. The percentage of clones producing GT-binding antibodies diminished in the secondary response, while the percentage of clones producing antibodies cross-reacting on (Phe,G)-A--L increased. Neonatal clones also produced mostly GT-binding antibodies but gave a higher percentage of (Phe,G)-A--L-cross-reacting antibodies than adult primary clones. The specificities of secondary antibodies produced by xid and wild-type B cell clones were dissimilar. First, xid secondary clones were "primary-like" in that no anti-A--L antibodies were detected. Second, clones whose antibodies bound side-chain determinants but not GT were produced in higher frequency by xid than by wild-type secondary B cells. The differential responsiveness of B cell subsets to antigen and regulatory signals may influence memory B cell generation and the specificity of antibodies produced in the primary vs secondary response.

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