Splenic lymphoblasts or normal spleen cells were treated with varying concentrations of TNBS in order to assess whether cell membrane H-2 molecules were derivatized with TNP. Cells treated with high concentrations of TNBS had their cell membrane H-2 molecules derivatized and functioned antigenically as inhibitors in a cold target TNP-CML competition assay. In contrast, cells derivatized with lower concentrations of TNBS had a significant proportion of their membrane proteins derivatized with TNP but did not have their H-2 molecules derivatized. These latter cells were unable to block anti-TNP cytotoxic effector cells in the competition assay. When cells were treated with 3H-TNBS, it was observed that TNP couples to cell membrane H-2, Ia and Ig molecules, and an estimate of the number of TNP molecules bound per cell at varying concentrations of TNBS was determined.
The data obtained are consistent with there being a requirement for TNP to directly derivatize H-2 molecules on the cell membrane in order to create antigenic determinants that can be recognized by cytotoxic anti-TNP effector cells. As an alternative, there may be a requirement for the presence of a high density of TNP molecules per cell rather than direct H-2 derivatization by TNP in order to account for activity.