Cell transfers to carrier-immunized irradiated mice have permitted an analysis of the in vitro stimulation of clonal precursors of anti-2,4-dinitrophenyl (DNP) antibody-producing cells derived from both immune and nonimmune mice. The results indicate that: (a) carrier-specific enhancement is obligatory for stimulation of primary precursor cells and increases both the size and number of detectable foci derived from secondary precursors. (b) This carrier-specific enhancement is most apparent in the stimulation of precursors of high-affinity antibody producer cells. (c) The antibody produced by primary foci, like that of secondary foci, appears homogeneous. (d) The frequency of clonal precursors in normal spleens is 38% that in spleens from mice 4–8 months after immunization, and the number of such precursors in normal spleens can be reduced fivefold by specific suppression of donor mice with soluble antigen. (e) The average of association constants of primary monofocal antibodies, like that of primary serum antibody produced in carrier-primed mice, is less than 10-fold lower than that of secondary clonal or serum antibody. (f) The affinity of primary monofocal antibodies shows a slight dependence on stimulating antigen concentration; however, a minimum threshold affinity consonant with stimulation is apparent. (g) Free hapten inhibits antigenic stimulation of primary precursor cells at a much lower concentration than is required for the inhibition of secondary precursors.
These results are interpreted as indicating that (a) primary stimulation, like secondary stimulation, results from the selective stimulation by antigen of a population of cells differing from one another in their potential antibody product but each having only a single such product; (b) the antigen receptors of primary cells interact with antigen as if they are monovalent while receptors of secondary cells evidence multivalence; (c) antigenic stimulation appears to require both a relatively high affinity of receptors for bound antigen and an interlinking of receptors through such antigen; stimulation is thus seen as resulting from a stabilization of receptors within antigen-receptor aggregates to the cell surface; (d) T-cells appear to serve both in cross-linking antigens and in amplifying the size of stimulated clones.