Mice were treated with two 100-µCi injections of 89Sr to deplete marrow-dependent (M) cells. Mice so treated responded normally to immunization with sheep red blood cells (SRBC) in vivo; moreover, spleen cells from 89Sr-treated mice were able to respond to SRBC after infusion into irradiated recipient mice. However, spleen cells from mice treated with 89Sr did not respond to SRBC in vitro and mixtures of normal spleen cells with the latter were also not able to respond in vitro. The discrepancy between in vivo and in vitro responses was abolished by culturing spleen cells for 24 hr before testing their ability to respond to SRBC in the adoptive transfer in vivo. Pretreatment of spleen cells from 89Sr-treated mice with 1000 R of γ-radiation lessened their suppressive activity. The suppressor cells were detected in spleens of athymic nude mice treated with 89Sr. The suppressive activity, after the 24-hr culture period, was not abolished by irradiation and was active in vivo as well as in vitro. Thus, depletion of M cells by 89Sr results in the appearance within the spleen of thymus-independent suppressor cells, which require a short period of in vitro cultivation before becoming functionally active.

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