The requirements for primary in vitro plaque-forming cell (PFC) development in cultures of purified rat splenic B cells have been examined. Rat B cells were directly responsive to the type 1 antigen trinitrophenyl-Brucella abortus (TNP-BA), but both T cells and adherent accessory cells were required for B cell responses to the type 2 antigen TNP-Ficoll and the T cell-dependent (TD) antigen sheep erythrocytes (SRBC). However, the cellfree supernatants from concanavalin A-induced spleen cells of rat or mouse origin replaced the requirement for T cells and macrophages, and resulted in PFC development in response to TNP-Ficoll and SRBC and augmented PFC numbers in response to TNP-BA. Culture supernatants from induced murine T cell and macrophage cell lines were used to partially deduce the molecular requirements for the support of PFC development by rat B cells to these three antigens. Supernatants from the EL-4 (EL-4 sup) and B151 K12 (B15 sup) T cell lines augmented TNP-BA responses, suggesting that B cell growth factor II (BCGF-II) mediated this effect. An admixture of purified interleukin 2 (IL 2) and B15 sup supported PFC development to SRBC, indicating that IL 2, BCGF-II, and the T cell-replacing factor in B15 sup (B15-TRF) were sufficient to support this response. In addition, the IL 2 plus B15 sup-supported anti-SRBC PFC response was increased by the addition of an interleukin 1-containing fraction from the supernatant of the macrophage line P388D1. PFC development in response to TNP-Ficoll had the most stringent requirements and only occurred in the presence of EL-4 sup and B15 sup (IL 2, BCGF-1, BCGF-II, EL-TRF, B15-TRF). These data indicate that different cellular and molecular requirements exist for PFC development in response to types 1, 2, and TD antigens by rat B cells.