The present studies have been carried out to characterize the regulatory influences acting upon defined pathways of T cell-dependent B cell activation. In these studies, it was demonstrated that high concentrations of free carrier strongly inhibited the MHC-restricted in vitro T cell-dependent antibody responses of primed Lyb-5- B cells to the corresponding carrier-hapten conjugate. In contrast, these same concentrations of free carrier failed to inhibit the T cell dependent responses of Lyb-5+ B cells to the same antigen. The inhibition of Lyb-5- B cell responses by free carrier was shown to result from active suppression mediated by carrier-specific primed Lyt-1+2- T cells and to require the additional participation of unprimed Lyt-1-2+ T cells. The activation of this suppression was antigen-specific, but suppression once activated was antigen nonspecific in its effect. These findings thus demonstrate that distinct pathways of B cell activation can be independently regulated by T suppressor network influences, and that these pathways therefore constitute potentially independent components of the immune response to a given antigenic stimulus.

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