During cognate B:T interactions, B cells encounter antigen (Ag) through surface immuno-globulin (sIg) and present antigenic peptides to T helper (Th) cells. However, most in vitro systems used to study contact events involved in the delivery of T help for B cells circumvent the requirement for T cell Ag specificity by using anti-CD3/T cell receptor (TcR) monoclonal antibodies (mAb) to activate T cells. To study the role of sIg engagement in the responsiveness of B cells to T help, we pre-treated small resting B cells with soluble anti-kappa mAb prior to contact with an activated Th1 clone. By reducing the concentration of anti-TcR mAb we obtained low levels of CD40 ligand (CD40Llow) on Th cells, comparable to those expressed by lymph node T cells activated in vitro (ex vivo T cells). In contrast to untreated B cells, which did not respond to CD40Llow Th, anti-Ig-treated B cells responded strongly. Low buoyant density B cells also responded to CD40Llow Th cells. There was no B cell response to resting Th cells. mAb against CD54/intercellular adhesion molecule-1 or major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II completely inhibited B cell responses to CD40Llow Th1 cells, equivalent to the effects of blocking CD40 interactions. This contrasts with mAb blocking responses to CD40Lhigh Th, where CD40 effects predominate. Our data show that sIg engagement is necessary for the induction of B cell response to CD40Llow Th cells. Anti-CD3-activated ex vivo T cells that were also CD40Llow did not provide help to small resting B cells, but did induce responses from sIg-stimulated B cells. Thus, our data support a requirement for sIg signaling in physiological B cell activation, and further confirm previous work showing CD40 ligation to be necessary but not sufficient for delivery of T help to B cells.