The ability of autoimmune T cell subsets to interfere with tolerization of B cells can be studied by using thymic-independent Ag. We have defined an abnormality within the CD4+ T cell compartment in young NZB and MRL-lpr/lpr mice by studying tolerance of spleen and B cells to the thymic independent Ag, fluorescein-Brucella abortus. Tolerization of spleen cells is defective in MRL-lpr/lpr mice, but not MRL-+/+ or C3H.lpr mice, suggesting that the defect requires both the autosomal MRL background and the lpr gene to be present. T enriched cells from NZB mice and from MRL-lpr/lpr mice (but not MRL-+/+ or C3H.lpr mice) reverse tolerance in spleen cells from [NZB X DBA/2]F1 and C3H/HeJ mice, respectively. This interference is removed by treatment with anti-CD4 antibody and C. Supernatants from cultured T cells of NZB and MRL-lpr/lpr mice also prevent tolerance in spleen cells of [NZB X DBA/2]F1 and MRL-+/+ mice, respectively, unless CD4+ cells are removed prior to T cell culture. Removal of T cells from NZB and MRL-lpr/lpr spleen cells allows normal tolerization of B cells, which is abrogated by the addition of syngeneic T cells or cultured T cell supernatants. This effect also depends on the presence of CD4+ T cells. These studies show that in MRL-lpr/lpr mice, through interaction of the lpr and MRL background genes in a T cell subset, and in NZB mice, CD4+ T cells interfere with B cell tolerance to a thymic-independent Ag.

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