In this report we have examined the ability of small resting B cells to act as antigen-presenting cells (APC) to antigen-specific MHC-restricted T cells as assessed by either T cell proliferation or T cell-dependent B cell stimulation. We found that 10 of 14 in vitro antigen-specific MHC-restricted T cell clones and lines and three of four T cell hybridomas could be induced to either proliferate or secrete IL-2 in the presence of lightly irradiated (1,000 rads) purified B cells and the appropriate foreign antigen. All T cell lines and hybridomas were stimulated to proliferate or make IL-2 by macrophage- and dendritic cell-enriched populations and all T cells tested except one hybridoma caused B cell activation when stimulated with B cells as APC. Furthermore, lightly irradiated, highly purified syngeneic B cells were as potent a source of APC for inducing B cell activation as were low density dendritic and macrophage-enriched cells. Lymph node T cells freshly taken from antigen-primed animals were also found to proliferate when cultured with purified B cells and the appropriate antigen. Thus, small resting B cells can function as APC to a variety of T cells. This APC function was easily measured when the cells were irradiated with 1,000 rads, but was greatly diminished or absent when they were irradiated with 3,300 rads. Thus, the failure of some other laboratories to observe this phenomenon may be the result of the relative radiosensitivity of the antigen-presenting function of the B cells. In addition, this radiosensitivity allowed us to easily distinguish B cell antigen presentation from presentation by the dendritic cell and macrophage, as the latter was resistant to 3,300 rads. Finally, one T cell clone that failed to proliferate when B cells were used as APC was able to recruit allogeneic B cells to proliferate in the presence of syngeneic B cells and the appropriate antigen. This result suggests that there are at least two distinct pathways of activation in T cells, one that leads to T cell proliferation and one that leads to the secretion of B cell recruitment factor(s).

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