A new form of immunoregulation is described that is based on the recent suggestion that the effector phase of delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses consists of a cascade of steps that are dependent on the sequential action of two types of antigen-specific Ly-1+ effector cells. According to this formulation, which is based on analysis of contact sensitivity (CS) in mice, DTH consists of at least two T cell-dependent steps that must occur in sequence. The first of these steps occurs within 2 hr of challenge and depends on DTH-initiating, antigen-binding, antigen-specific T cell factors that sensitize the tissues for an obligatory initial vasoactive step, which allows the antigen/major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted, Ly-1+ effector T cells of classic 24 to 48 hr DTH responses to enter the tissues and produce chemoattractant lymphokines. We have now found that nonspecific suppression of CS responses can be induced by i.v. injection of these antigen-binding, CS-initiating T cell factors. Injection of the antigen-binding T cell factor induces Ly-2+, I-J-, cyclophosphamide sensitive, seemingly nonspecific suppressor T cells to inhibit initiation of CS responses. These suppressor cells do not affect the late-acting lymphokine-producing T cells, but probably act by preventing production of antigen-specific factors of the type that are required to initiate DTH responses. Furthermore, injection of CS-initiating antigen-binding T cell factors also induces suppression of sheep red blood cell (SRBC)-specific DTH, but does not affect classic anti-SRBC B cell responses, which are dependent on antigen/MHC-restricted Ly-1+ helper T cells; skin allograft rejection responses are also not affected. Thus, the suppression is DTH-specific. In addition, suppression induced by antigen-binding T cell factors is Igh and not MHC/H-2 restricted. These findings and data in the companion manuscript showing that these suppressor T cells act by production of soluble suppressor factors that bind to antigen-specific T cell factors of different antigenic specificities, cause us to suggest that the antigen-binding T cell factors are T cell isotype-like. Therefore, an isotype-like suppression is induced by these factors. This isotype-like suppression affects factor-producing cells of various antigenic specificities, may be mediated by T cell isotype-binding factors that are Igh restricted and block initiation of DTH responses, but does not affect conventional, antigen/MHC-restricted T cells, which may therefore have antigen receptors of a different isotype.

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