Mice rendered B cell deficient by treatment with rabbit anti-mouse IgM (anti-mu) antibodies from birth fail to respond when primed with soluble protein antigens in CFA, as measured by T cell proliferation when challenged with antigen in vitro. The role of B cells in T cell priming in vivo was examined by adoptively transferring hapten-specific B cells into anti-mu mice, followed by immunization with haptenated Ag in CFA. The T cell proliferative response to OVA of anti-mu BALB/c mice was partially restored by the administration of TNP or FITC-specific B cells and immunization with TNP-OVA or FITC-OVA, respectively. This reconstitution was Ag-specific, inasmuch as hapten-binding B cells restored the T cell responses to OVA in mice immunized with the same hapten coupled to OVA. The mechanism of B cell reconstitution of T cell priming in anti-mu mice was addressed using parental to F1 B cell transfers. The Ia restriction pattern of the activated T cells from these mice indicated that both direct presentation of Ag by transferred B cells and antibody-mediated enhancement of Ag presentation by non-B, host Ag-presenting cells occurred. Thus, Ag-specific B lymphocytes play a critical role in priming of T cells in vivo.

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