B cells cultured with anti-IgM, BSF-p1, and B15-TRF will differentiate into high rate IgM-synthesizing cells in the presence of supernatants from EL-4 cells that have been induced with phorbol myristate acetate. These supernatants contain two molecular species (EL-TRFs) that have differentiative activity. One co-migrates with interleukin 2 (IL-2) and its activity is blocked by antibody to the IL-2 receptor. Furthermore, molecularly cloned IL-2, at concentrations of 100 U/ml or more, expresses such EL-TRF activity. The EL-TRF activity of cloned IL-2 can also be inhibited by antibody to the IL-2 receptor. The other material with EL-TRF activity has a molecular weight of ~32,000. This material lacks IL-2 activity. Antibody to the IL-2 receptor does not impair its function. B cells stimulated with anti-IgM and BSF-p1, with or without B15-TRF, express determinants that react with two monoclonal antibodies which recognize distinct epitopes on the T cell IL-2 receptor. These determinants are present at much lower density (~-fold) on stimulated B cells than on HT-2 cells, an IL-2-dependent T cell line. Very small amounts of [3H]IL-2 (<1,000 molecules per cell) bind to activated B cells. These results indicate that IL-2 binds to a receptor on appropriately prepared B cells and causes them to differentiate into high rate IgM-synthesizing cells. The physiologic significance of the B cell differentiative activity of IL-2 remains to be investigated.
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