Antigens that are expressed on the surface of pathogens in an organized, highly repetitive form can activate specific B cells by cross-linking of antigen receptors in a multivalent fashion. B cells respond to these multivalent antigens in the absence of MHC class II-restricted T-cell help by a mechanism that depends on the expression of a functional Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk). Accordingly, this class of immunogens has been designated T-cell-independent type 2 (TI-2) antigens. The unique properties of the B-cell response to TI-2 antigens are critically dependent on the formation of a small number of antigen receptor clusters, each of which contains approximately 10 to 20 antigen-bound membrane Ig (mIg) molecules. These clusters induce local membrane association of multiple activated Btk molecules, which results in long-term mobilization of intracellular ionized calcium. Such persistent calcium fluxes efficiently recruit transcription factors and thereby induce T-cell-independent B-cell activation and proliferation. While this first signal of multivalent mIg cross-linking can induce B-cell proliferation, we propose that a second signal is required for a TI-2 Ig secretory response. We have found that engagement of members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) family could provide second signals that selectively induce Ig secretion in B cells that were activated by multivalent, but not by bivalent, antigen receptor engagement. This finding demonstrates a general mechanism by which TLRs recognize molecular motifs on the surface of pathogens and provide the TI-2-activated B cell with a second signal. In addition, TLR-dependent recognition of these non-self motifs by cells of the innate immune system can induce these cells to provide alternative and/or additional second signals in the TI-2 response. The complement system provides another link between the B cell and the innate immune system, and facilitates the mIg signal transduction by recruitment of CD21 in the immune response. Thus, the TI-2 response provides the host with a combination of "the best of both worlds": the recruitment of the fine specificity of the adaptive immune response and the utilization of both the speed of the innate immune system and the wealth of cytokines produced by its member cells upon stimulation by pathogenic organisms or their products. By combining these two pathways, the TI-2 response enables the host to rapidly produce antigen-specific Ig effector molecules that can be secreted at a sufficient rate to keep up with the rapid multiplication of invading infectious microorganisms, and will also prevent the intracellular spreading of a significant part of this population.