Adult mice were infected by i.v. inoculation with 10(3) mouse infectious doses of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCM virus). Despite widespread replication of the agent, overt illness did not develop; histopathologic alterations were moderate. High virus concentrations were attained in the spleen, which was chosen for further study. Cytotoxic spleen T cell responses were found to vary among inbred mouse strains, and as a rule, these were correlated with other virus-specific cell-mediated immune phenomena. However, high- and low-responder mice eliminated the virus equally fast and already at times when spleen cytotoxic T lymphocytes were just beginning to appear (and before delayed-type hypersensitivity could be demonstrated). Adoptive transfer experiments showed that very few immune T lymphocytes were capable of reducing virus replication in the recipients' spleens and, furthermore, that protection was rapidly induced; when low numbers of cells were transferred, the effect was apparent 8 hr later, and with higher numbers diminished virus replication was evident after an interval as short as 6 hr. In fact, the data suggest that virus was actually inactivated. In spite of this marked efficiency, morphologic alterations in spleens of adoptively immunized mice were absent. Attempts to reveal expansion of immune cells in the recipients have failed, and the observation that adoptive transfer was as efficient in nude mice as in their furred counterparts makes it unlikely that the recipients' T lymphocytes participated to any extent. The low number of T lymphocytes causing reduction of virus, the short interval after which the effect became measurable, and the lack of histopathologic alterations has led to a working hypothesis in which it is assumed that immunologically activated T lymphocytes secrete lymphokines that directly interfere with virus replication in neighboring cells.

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