Earlier studies have demonstrated that T cells activated in mixed lymphocyte reactions can exert positive as well as negative allogeneic effects on B cells expressing the appropriate alloantigens on their surface. We investigated the effect of in vivo priming of T cells with alloantigens on their capacity to help or suppress allogeneic B cell cultures against sheep erythrocytes. We used immunization protocols that have been shown to be optimal for induction of alloantigen-specific delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) and alloantigen-specific suppressor T (Ts) cells for DTH. The results show that in vivo stimulation with alloantigens, depending on the immunization route and the lymphoid organ studied, can be as effective as in vitro stimulation in increasing the frequency of alloantigen-specific helper T (Th) cells and Ts cells. Subcutaneous immunization induced a 10-fold frequency raise of Th cells as well as of Ts cells in the lymph nodes. In the spleen the Th cell population was hardly affected by s.c. immunization, whereas the Ts cell population increased by at least a factor 20. Intravenous immunization, on the other hand, selectively expanded the Th cell population in the spleen, whereas the splenic Ts cell population and the Th and Ts cells in the lymph nodes were not affected. Comparison of these results with our previous data concerning characteristics and the requirements of in vivo activation of alloantigen-specific DTH reactive T cells and of alloantigen-specific Ts cells suggest that different Ts cell populations are involved in suppression of alloantigen-specific DTH in vivo and of allogeneic suppression of in vitro induced sheep erythrocytes specific antibody formation.

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