Primary and secondary cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses to minor alloantigens can be suppressed by priming host mice with a high dose (10(8) cells) of alloantigenic donor spleen cells (SC). Such suppression is antigen specific and transferable into secondary hosts with T cells. One interpretation of this is that antigen-specific host suppressor T cells (Ts) are activated. Alternatively, donor Lyt-2+ T cells, introduced in the priming inoculum, may inactivate host CTL precursors (CTLp) that recognize the priming (donor) alloantigens. Donor cells that act in this way are termed veto T cells. The experiments described here exclude veto T cell participation in transferable alloantigen-specific suppression, and demonstrate the operation of an alloantigen-specific host-derived T suppressor (Ts) cell. The origin of the Ts has been studied directly by using Thy-1-disparate BALB/c mice. The cell responsible for the transfer of suppression of a secondary CTL response to B10 minors was of the host Thy-1 allotype, and so originated in the host spleen and was not introduced in the priming inoculum. Secondly, antigen-specific Ts generated in CBA female mice against B10 minors could act on CTL responses to an unequivocally non-cross-reactive-third party antigen (H-Y), provided the two antigens were expressed on the same cell membrane. Such third-party suppression is incompatible with the operation of veto T cells. Depletion of Thy-1.2+ or Lyt-2+ cells from the suppression-inducing donor SC inoculum did not abrogate suppression induction in BALB/c mice; instead, suppression was enhanced. The demonstration of veto cell activity in similarly primed mice by other groups of investigators indicates that both types of suppression may operate. However, our results show that only antigen-specific Ts can mediate the transferable suppression of CTL responses to alloantigens.

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