A series of immunoglobulin (Ig)-transgenic mice were generated to study the functional capabilities of the IgM and IgD classes of B lymphocyte antigen receptor in regulating both cellular development and responses to specific antigen. B cells from Ig-transgenic mice expressing either hen-egg lysozyme (HEL)-specific IgM or IgD alone were compared with B cells from mice that coexpressed IgM and IgD of the same anti-HEL specificity. In all three types of Ig-transgenic mice, conventional B cells specific for HEL exhibited exclusion of endogenous Ig expression and matured to populate the usual microenvironments in peripheral lymphoid tissues. These peripheral B cells could be stimulated by HEL through either IgM or IgD antigen receptors to generate T cell dependent antibody production in vivo or to enhance T cell independent proliferative responses to lipopolysaccharide in vitro. Conversely, when HEL was encountered in vivo as a self-antigen, B cells expressing HEL-specific IgM or IgD alone were both rendered tolerant. In each case this occurred by clonal anergy in response to soluble autologous HEL, and clonal deletion when HEL was recognized as a membrane-bound self-antigen. Taken together, these findings indicate that IgM and IgD antigen receptors expressed alone on conventional B cells can support normal differentiation, antigen-dependent activation, and induction of self-tolerance, the only overt difference lying in a greater degree of receptor downregulation for IgM relative to IgD after induction of clonal anergy by soluble HEL.

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