We have previously demonstrated that the oral administration of guinea pig myelin basic protein (MBP) protects Lewis rats against the induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) when subsequently immunized with guinea pig MBP in CFA. In addition, animals made orally tolerant to MBP also have diminished proliferative and antibody responses to MBP, but not to other Ag. Nonetheless, the mechanism of oral tolerance to MBP in the EAE model remains undefined. In the present study, we report that T cells isolated from the spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes of MBP orally tolerized animals can adoptively transfer protection against EAE. Furthermore, these T cells are of the CD8+ subclass. In addition, CD8+ T cells from MBP orally tolerized animals also suppress in vitro proliferative responses and antibody responses to MBP in an Ag-specific fashion. These results demonstrate that active cellular mechanisms are initiated after oral administration of an autoantigen that can down-regulate an experimental autoimmune disease and provide the basis for the isolation and characterization of the cells mediating both in vivo and in vitro suppression.

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