The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a herpes virus that has the capacity to infect human B cells and to induce them to secrete immunoglobulin (Ig). In the current experiments, Poisson analysis of limiting dilution cultures has been used to study the activation of human peripheral B cells by the B95-8 strain of EBV. Under the culture conditions used, 0.2-1% of peripheral blood B cells were activated by EBV to secrete IgM or IgG. In addition, when multiple replicate cultures containing limited numbers of B cells were tested for IgM and for IgG production, the precursors for IgM and IgG segregated independently; thus, individual B cell precursors matured into cells secreting IgM or IgG but not both classes of Ig. Additional experiments using limiting dilutions of EBV were undertaken to study the viral requirements for B cell activation. These studies indicated that B cell activation by EBV to produce Ig was consistent with a "one-hit" model and inconsistent with a "two-hit" model. Taken together, these results indicate that infection by one EBV virion is sufficient to induce a precursor peripheral blood B cell to secrete Ig and that only one isotype of Ig is then secreted.

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