The data presented in the accompanying paper (J. P. Cogswell, R. P. Phipps, and D. W. Scott, Cell. Immunol. 114, 55-70, 1988) indicate that certain macrophage-like and lymphoid dendritic-like (P388AD.2) tumor lines which express major histocompatibility encoded class II (Ia) antigens and produce interleukin 1 (IL-1) are uniquely able to present hapten-modified self (HMS) in an immunogenic fashion in vivo. In the current study, the relationship between phenotype and function has been confirmed utilizing a completely in vitro system. This investigation revealed that B-cell priming required T cells restricted to P388AD.2's I-A antigens. In addition, exogenous IL-1 reconstituted the response of an IL-1-deficient tumor (P388AD.2-ILd), although it had no effect on the other nonimmunogenic Ia+ tumor lines. Unlike the in vivo system, effective B-cell tolerance was induced when P388AD.2 was modified with high concentrations (10 mM) of hapten or when highly haptenated tumor was added to 0.1 mM TNBS-modified P388AD.2. These results suggest that positive regulation of in vitro immune responses to HMS is dependent upon the phenotype of the accessory cell carrier (with lymphoid dendritic-like cells being unusually potent), while negative regulation is associated with high epitope density. This system now allows the dissection of the properties of different accessory cells and the signals required for B-cell priming or tolerance induction.