Athymic (nude) mice were transplanted with cultured thymic fragments from syngeneic, allogeneic, and partially allogeneic (recombinant) mice. Lymphocyte proliferation and cytotoxicity in vitro were measured to assess immunologic reconstitution. Transplanted nude mice were immunocompetent whether donor and recipient were disparate for class I, class II, or both H-2 gene types. Furthermore, allotolerance for thymic H-2 class I antigens was achieved independently of class II antigen allotolerance. Class I antigen tolerance was not broken during lymphocyte responses to unrelated alloantigens, ruling out insufficient help as the tolerance mechanism. Splenocytes, isolated from nude mice transplanted with fully allogeneic or syngeneic thymic fragments and stimulated in vitro with trinitrophenyl-modified cells, displayed H-2-restricted, hapten-specific cytotoxicity. Cytotoxic cells from allotolerant mice were restricted to either host or thymic H-2 antigens, depending on the stimulating cell haplotype. Response levels for thymic and host trinitrophenyl-modified cells were comparable. We have shown that allogeneic thymic epithelium transplanted into adult nude mice can induce allotolerance to class I and II H-2 antigens equally, and permits T lymphocyte interaction with cells bearing thymic donor or host H-2 antigens. Our results are consistent with a model wherein T lymphocyte self-receptors retain their genomic repertoire but can be selectively mutated or expanded by appropriate H-2 antigen presentation by the thymus.

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