A most effective method for the induction of hapten-specific allergic contact sensitivity (CS) is via epicutaneous application of the hapten. Another effective method is by the administration of haptenated epidermal cells (EC) subcutaneously. The latter method induces more intense and longer lasting CS than does the subcutaneous administration of haptenated spleen cells (SC). Thus, there may be something unique about EC which, when haptenated, allows them to generate effector cells more effectively than do SC. We therefore attempted to generate T cell clones that were both hapten- and epidermal-specific. Four days after painting mice with 7% trinitrochlorobenzene, draining lymph node cells were obtained and T cells were purified. These cells were co-cultured with trinitrophenylated (TNP) Langerhans cell-enriched EC. After 4 days, cells were harvested and rested on non-TNP-conjugated EC. The cells were restimulated and rested three times, and were then cloned by limiting dilution with added interleukin 2, which was then continually added. Proliferation of T cells was assessed by [3H]-thymidine incorporation. Cytotoxicity assays utilized TNP-conjugated concanavalin A SC blasts or EC as targets. Clones A-2 and E-4 are Thy-1+, Lyt-2+, and L3T4-, and TNP-specific. In contrast to noncloned TNP-specific T cells, the clones proliferate preferentially in response to TNP-EC rather than TNP-SC. Also in contrast to noncloned T cells, the clones were preferentially cytotoxic for TNP-EC; compared to TNP-SC, there was an eight- to 32-fold increase in killing when TNP-EC were used as targets. Clones A-2 and E-4 therefore exhibit hapten and epidermal specificity. The epidermal-specific epitope that is recognized is unknown, but genetic restriction and antibody inhibition studies indicate that it is co-recognized with H-2K.

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