Ag-specific and MHC-restricted Th clones of different Ag specificities and MHC haplotypes were tested for their ability to produce soluble factors capable of providing the signals required for B cell activation and IgG antibody production. Each of five Th clones tested generated significant helper activity in supernatants derived from coculture of the T cell clone with specific Ag and syngeneic APC. The same helper activity was detected in supernatants of clones stimulated with immobilized anti-CD3 antibody in the absence of Ag or APC. The secreted helper activity resembled the activity of the intact Th cells in that it was Ag-specific, carrier-hapten-linked and MHC-restricted. These T cell products functioned to activate only those B cells expressing MHC products which corresponded to the specificity of each Th clone. Thus, the specificity of the cell-free T cell product mimicked precisely that expressed by the intact Th cell and presumably mediated by the cell surface TcR. In addition to the apparent presence of specific helper factor in Th clone supernatants, a role for nonspecific lymphokines was also identified in these preparations. Although recombinant or purified IL-4 alone was not sufficient to stimulate hapten-primed B cells to secrete hapten-specific IgG antibodies, mAb specific for IL-4 blocked the induction of antibody secretion by Th cell supernatant. These results indicate that stimulation of B cells to produce hapten-specific IgG antibody requires at least two distinct signals: an Ag-specific T cell signal which is restricted by MHC products expressed on the B cells, and a nonspecific signal mediated at least in part by the lymphokine IL-4.

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