The present study has examined a functional role of Ia molecules expressed on murine B cells in polyclonal B cell differentiation induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Reverse, IgM PFC responses of unprimed B cells induced by LPS in the apparent absence of T cells and adherent accessory cells were markedly inhibited in a haplotype-specific manner by Fab monomer fragment of anti-class II (Ia) but not anti-class I MHC monoclonal antibody (mAb). However, the degree of inhibition of LPS responses of H-2-heterozygous F1 B cells expressing both parental I-A products by either one of anti-I-A mAb was at best half that of the parental B cells. Interestingly, when (B10 x B10.-BR)F1 (H-2b/k) B cells were fractionated into adherent and nonadherent populations by their ability to bind to parental B10 B cell monolayers, LPS responses of F1 B cells adherent to and nonadherent to the B10 B cell monolayers were selectively inhibited by anti-I-Ab and anti-I-Ak mAb, respectively. These results suggest that LPS-responsive F1 B cells comprise at least two separate populations with restriction specificity for only one of the parental I-A products expressed on B cells. In addition, it was demonstrated that the I-A-restriction specificity of LPS-responsive B cells is "plastic" and determined by H-2-genotype of bone marrow cells present during B cell ontogeny but not by that of radiation-resistant host elements. Namely, the LPS responses of B10-derived B cells from (B10 + B10.BR) (H-2b x H - 2k)F1 radiation bone marrow chimeras but not from B10 (H-2b x H-2k)F1 chimeras became sensitive to the inhibition of anti-I-Ak mAb in the presence of mitomycin C-treated I-Ak-positive B cells, supporting a notion of receptor-Ia molecules interactions rather than like-like interactions. Thus, the present results provide evidence indicating that B-B cell interaction via recognition of self-I-A products is a crucial event in the polyclonal B cell differentiation induced by LPS.