The present study has assessed thymic influence on the differentiation and recognition specificity of developing Lyt-2+ lymphokine-secreting T cells, and compared it with those of developing Lyt-2+ CTL. It was demonstrated that development of Lyt-2+ lymphokine-secreting Th cells requires an intrathymic differentiation step, and that peripheral Lyt-2+ lymphokine-secreting Th cells, unlike peripheral Lyt-2+ CTL, are profoundly tolerant to intrathymically expressed alloantigens. These data are interpreted as demonstrating that functionally distinct Lyt-2+ T cell populations are heterogeneous in their requirements for differentiation and/or activation.

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