Previous studies showed that activation of CD4+ T cells with mouse mammary tumor virus-encoded Mls(a) superantigens induces strong proliferative responses and interleukin-2 production but fails to elicit typical early T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated signal transduction events, such as hydrolysis of polyphosphoinositides (PI) or an increase in intracellular calcium. Here we show that the failure of Mls(a) antigen to activate PI hydrolysis applies when resting B cells are used as antigen-presenting cells (APC). By contrast, when Mls(a)-bearing B cells are activated for 24 h by exposure to lipopolysaccharide or, more importantly, to Mls(a)-reactive T cells or anti-CD40 antibodies the cells develop the capacity to elicit easily detectable PI turnover. These studies demonstrate that, for B cells as APC, the initiation of certain TCR-associated signal transduction pathways can depend on activation of the APC. The data suggest that cross talk between T cells and resting B cells can suffice to generate competent B APC and lead to the delayed initiation of signaling pathways important in T cell responses.