The levels of CD45RB expression by HGG-specific CD4+ cells residing in the Ag-draining lymph nodes of HGG-primed CBA/CaJ mice were analyzed. When sorted populations of CD4+, CD45RBhi, and CD4+, CD45RBlo cells were cultured with HGG and Ag-presenting cells, the majority of the proliferative response was found in the CD45RBlo fraction early after in vivo priming (Day 6), and this pattern remained stable through 12 days postpriming. To determine whether this segregation of responsiveness was consistent in other mouse strains, HGG-primed C57BL/6J mice were similarly analyzed. In contrast to findings with the CBA/CaJ strain, the CD4+, CD45RBhi cell fraction obtained from C57BL/6J mice was the predominant responding population early after in vivo priming (Day 6); however, there was a parallel increase in responsiveness of CD4+, CD45RBhi, and CD4+, CD45RBlo cells by Day 12. Thus, there was not a decrease in CD45RBhi expression with a concommitant increase in CD45RBlo expression in CD4+ cells proliferating to HGG. Despite the heterogeneity in CD45RB expression by the primed CD4+ cells of the two strains, the entire proliferative response to HGG early after priming resided in the fraction bearing high levels of membrane CD44, thus arguing for the existence of CD45RBhi, CD44hi and CD45RBlo, CD44hi cells during the early phase of the response. In both mouse strains the CD4+, CD45RBhi subset of primed lymph node cells produced significant levels of IL-2 in response to HGG and APC, whereas no significant IL-2 or IL-4 production was detectable in HGG-stimulated CD45RBlo cells of either strain. The CD4+, CD45RBhi subset also proliferated more vigorously in response to polyclonal activation than the CD4+ CD45RBlo fraction. To examine whether the patterns of CD45RB expression on HGG-primed cells from C57BL/6J mice were common to other antigens, the response profiles were examined after in vivo priming with a second antigen, KLH. In contrast to studies with HGG as the Ag, the proliferative response to KLH in C57BL/6J mice was evenly divided among the CD45RBhi and CD45RBlo fractions on Day 8 after priming, but shifted markedly to the CD45RBlo fraction by Day 12 after priming. Taken together, these data show that the patterns of CD45RB expression on primed populations of CD4+ cells can exhibit mouse strain polymorphism and can differ depending on the choice of antigen for immunization.