The humoral immune response of neonates to T cell-independent type 2 (TI-2) Ags is markedly defective. We previously demonstrated that multivalent membrane Ig cross-linking, using dextran-conjugated anti-Ig Abs (anti-Ig-dextran), is an in vitro model for membrane Ig-dependent TI-2 induction of Ig secretion. In this work, we demonstrate that highly purified neonatal B cells are intrinsically defective in IgM secretion in response to anti-Ig-dextran and cytokines in vitro, as well as other modes of B cell activation, relative to adult B cells. However, costimulation of anti-Ig-dextran-activated neonatal B cells with either CD40-ligand, a recombinant bacterial lipoprotein, or LPS restores the IgM secretory response of neonatal B cells to adult levels. Analysis of Ig isotype secretion indicates that neonatal B cells have an enhanced capacity to secrete IgE and IgA relative to other Ig isotypes. These data suggest that neonatal B cells are competent to secrete Ig in response to TI-2 Ags if adequate costimuli are provided, and thus may have particular relevance for the design of vaccine strategies in the immunodeficient host. The data also suggest that neonatal B cells are programmed to secrete relatively enhanced amounts of IgE and IgA, which may be relevant for antimicrobial resistance at mucosal surfaces.

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