CD4+ T cells in the rat can be divided into two nonoverlapping subsets by their reactivity with the mAb MRC OX-22, which binds some of the high molecular weight forms of the CD45 antigen. The lineage relationship between subsets of CD4+ T cells expression different forms of CD45 has been a controversial issue for some time. Experiments described in this paper address this question using in vivo assays of T cell reactivity. Analysis of primary antibody responses in vivo show that it is MRC OX-22+ CD4+ T cells that are active in these assays, whereas antigen-primed T cells that provide helper activity for secondary antibody responses in vivo have the MRC OX-22- CD4+ phenotype. It is demonstrated that these memory T cells derive from MRC OX-22+ CD4+ T cell precursors and not from a putative separate lineage. It is concluded that with respect to the provision of help for B cells, MRC OX-22+ CD4+ T cells are precursors of memory cells with the phenotype MRC OX-22- CD4+.

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