A helper cell population with phenotypic characteristics of both B and T cells is described. This helper population, called BH, is present in normal unprimed C57BL/6 mice and preferentially helps the expression of NPb idiotype-bearing plaque-forming B cells in the absence of T helper cells. Its surface phenotype is Lyt-1.2+, Ig+, Lyb-3+, Thy-1.2-, Lyt-2.2-. The helper activity of the BH population is IgH restricted and BH cells selectively bind NPb idiotypic determinants. Collectively the data demonstrate that this unique subpopulation can regulate the response of antibody-secreting B cells through specific recognition of idiotypic determinants.
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