The effects of neonatal administration of immunogenic peptides on subsequent T and B cell function were tested using defined T and B cell peptide epitopes from the circumsporozoite (CS) protein of the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. We observed that neonatal exposure of responder strain mice to either of the two major murine T sites on the CS protein resulted in specific tolerance of both helper and proliferating T cells. One of these T sites, (NANP)n, is also the immunodominant B epitope on the CS protein. We took advantage of this fact to directly compare the effects of neonatal peptide administration on B and T cell function and observed that mice whose helper and proliferating T cells were tolerant to (NANP)n nevertheless produced normal levels of anti-(NANP)n antibodies after immunization with keyhole limpet hemocyanin-(NANP)n. Our results demonstrate differential susceptibility of the Th cells and B cells to toleragens and suggest that self-tolerance to peptide epitopes during the neonatal period reflects predominantly Th cell tolerance.

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