Spleen cells from adult mice rendered tolerant to the fluorescein (FL) hapten (as FL-sheep γ-globulin) were analyzed at limiting dilution for the numbers of precursors stimulatable either by specific antigen (FL-polymerized flagellin; FL-POL) or by a polyclonal B-cell activator (E. coli lipopolysaccharide; LPS). As expected, the number of PFC presursors activated by FL-POL was reduced more than fourfold in the spleens of FL-tolerant mice compared to normal controls. In contrast, LPS was able to trigger equivalent numbers of "FL-specific" PFC precursors in both normal and tolerant spleens. However, the clones stimulated by LPS were predominantly the "low-avidity" precursors in FL-tolerant spleens as shown by plaque inhibition studies. In addition, after FL-gelatin enrichment of normal or tolerant spleen cells, which contain equal numbers of antigen-binding cells, we found that purified cells from tolerant mice were in fact reduced in the numbers of clonable precursors upon LPS stimulation. Two other B-cell mitogens, POL and PPD, also failed to activate PFC precursors from FL-gelatin-purified tolerant spleen cells. Our results suggest that some high-avidity clones may be functionally deleted even in adult B-cell tolerance as previously noted for neonatal tolerance.