In this study T helper cells that recognize idiotypes as carriers for a hapten-specific B cell response were analyzed under limiting dilution conditions. T helper cells, induced by phosphorylcholine-hemocyanin (PC-Hy) priming, recognize trinitrophenylated TEPC-15 and MOPC-167 (TNP-T15, TNP-167) equally well. Limiting dilution analysis indicates identical frequencies of helper cells for TNP-T15 and TNP-167. Double immunization protocols using TNP-T15 and TNP-167 fail to demonstrate additive effects. Inhibition of carrier recognition in vitro using free hapten, PC, and unconjugated T15 or M167 indicates identical specificities of helper cells for T15 and M167. Collectively, these results provide strong evidence that PC-Hy priming induces only one population of idiotype-recognizing helper cells that are unable to distinguish between the T15 and the M167 idiotopes. The helper cell induction circuit was further analyzed. PC-Hy priming induces T15/167-specific helper T cells in X-linked immune defect-expressing F1 mice. This indicates that a B cell response to PC is not required to induce idiotype-recognizing T cells. Adoptive cotransfer of B cells from PC-Hy-primed mice together with normal T cells fails to induce idiotype-recognizing T cells. These results indicate the existence of a T helper1-T helper2 induction loop. In this scheme, the T helper1 cell carries T15-like receptors and the T helper2 cells, anti-T15-like receptors. Monoclonal antiidiotypic antibodies specific for T15 also induce a T15/167-recognizing T helper cell population. This finding demonstrates that idiotope-specific priming induces non-idiotype-specific T cells. Evidently, the idiotypic T cell network is based on a different selection of idiotope determinants than the selection of the B cell idiotype network.