The effect of gangliosides upon murine adult B cells at the single precursor cell level was examined using the splenic focus assay. Adult B cells were stimulated in in vitro organ fragment culture by a hapten-modified carrier protein in the presence of an excess of carrier-primed T cells. The addition of a potential tolerogen in the form of antigen coupled to a carrier not previously presented to the T cells resulted in a temporary unresponsiveness of the onset of antibody production in adult B cells, but not a permanent state of tolerance. This delay could be eliminated by the addition of purified murine gangliosides during the presentation of the hapten coupled to the unrecognized carrier. The ganglioside preparation was fractionated by ion-exchange chromatography and the active fraction was found to be a disialoganglioside. These results suggest that the ganglioside may interfere with membrane receptor-related events occurring during or after antigen binding or cross-linking to responding B cells.
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