Initiation and affinity maturation of the humoral immune response is driven by antigen interaction with BCR. To study how signaling and antigen presentation through BCR depend on antigen/BCR affinity, lysozyme-specific B cell transfectants were challenged with mutated lysozymes differing in their binding kinetics. For detectable triggering, the antigen/BCR complex needed a Ka > 10(6) M(-1) (dissociation half-life > approximately 1 s). Mutated lysozymes whose binding was below this threshold could nevertheless be presented if complexed with soluble antibody. Above the threshold, the concentration of antigen required to trigger a response decreased as the affinity (particularly dissociation half-life) increased. However, a plateau was reached at Kas > approximately 10(10) M(-1) (dissociation half-life > 0.5 hr), supporting the idea of a ceiling to affinity maturation.