The effect of ligation of CD40 on the proliferation and Ig secretion of a battery of human Ig-secreting hybridomas was examined to determine the regulatory activity of this surface molecule on B cells after initial activation. B cell hybridomas were generated by fusing activated peripheral blood B cells with SPAZ-4, a non-Ig-secreting fusion partner, and were cloned before analysis. All hybridomas expressed CD40 comparably. These hybridomas were stimulated with either recombinant baculovirus-expressed membrane-bound CD40L or a soluble murine CD40L/CD8 construct in the presence or the absence of various cytokines. Concentrations of CD40L that saturated 40 to 100% of CD40 induced initial homotypic aggregation followed by Fas (CD95)-independent apoptosis, with resultant decreases in growth and Ig secretion. Concentrations of CD40L that saturated 15 to 25% of CD40 also stimulated aggregation of all hybridomas. However, proliferation and Ig secretion of 9 of 13 IgM-secreting hybridomas, but none of 14 IgG- or IgA-secreting hybridomas, were enhanced by these concentrations of CD40L. These responses were independent of interactions mediated by the adhesion pair CD1la/CD18-CD54. These results indicate that the impact of CD40 ligation on human Ig-secreting hybridomas varies with the extent of CD40 engagement and depending on whether the hybridoma derived from an activated B cell that had previously undergone switch recombination.

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