The mitogenic response to Con A and the production of T cell growth factor or interleukin 2 (IL 2) by splenic and peripheral blood lymphocytes of obese strain (OS) chickens with spontaneous autoimmune thyroiditis have been investigated. By using an optimized method with Con A-coated chicken erythrocytes (MRC), lymphocytes of OS chickens were found to exhibit significantly elevated mitogenic responses as compared with cells from either Normal White Leghorn chickens (NWL) or animals of the Cornell C-Strain (CS), from which the OS has originally been developed. This difference was observed throughout ontogeny up to 15 mo of age, and was associated with increased levels of IL 2 activity in the culture supernatants. The elevated responsiveness of OS T lymphocytes was also found to be manifested in the expression of receptors for IL 2, because Con A-stimulated lymphocytes of OS birds were significantly more effective than those from normal controls in absorbing IL 2 activity from conditioned media (CM) of stimulated spleen cells. High concentrations of CM were suppressive in IL 2 assays, signaling the presence of an inhibitory factor(s) in addition to IL 2. An additional indication for defective immunoregulation was that CM from OS lymphocyte cultures showed significantly less of this suppressive activity in comparison with CM of normal (NWL and CS) lymphocyte cultures. Finally, the spontaneous uptake of 125IUdR of embryonic and early post hatching OS spleen lymphocytes was consistently and significantly enhanced. This difference, however, in contrast to the one observed in Con A responses, was found to decrease with age. The data are discussed in view of the contradictory results concerning T cell functions reported for several autoimmune states in mammals.

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