The B-cell mitogens LPS and lipoprotein stimulate 20-35 percent of all B cells in the spleen of 6- to 8-wk old C3H/Tif mice, as determined by limiting dilution analysis of precursors. Each reactive cell grows to a clone of IgM-secreting PFC, enumerated in a hemolytic plaque assay detecting all IgM secreting cells, regardless of v-region specificity. We have used these mitogens to reveal the total repertoire of Ig specificities produced by these mitogen-reactive B cells. We have determined in plaque assays with six different target erythrocytes the number of spleen cells limiting to one the number of mitogen-reactive B cells detected as specific IgM-secreting clones in each of these plaque assays. By this method, the absolute frequencies of precursor B cells with defined v-gene specificities could be calculated, for at least, one third of all B cells.
The frequencies of specific IgM-plaque-forming B-cell clones within the total pool of mitogen-reactive B cells was 1 in 10 for NIP(12),-SRC, 1 in 50 for TNP(12)- SRC, 1 in 100 for NIP(1)-SRC, 1 in 160 for TNP(3)- SRC, 1 in 500 for HRC, and 1 in 1,000 for SRC. These frequencies were the same in the LPS- and in the lipoprotein-reactive B-cell population for TNP(30)- SRC and SRC.