By conjugation of proteins to beads, Ags can be selectively targeted into the MHC class I pathway of phagocytes in vivo and can stimulate CTL responses. Because phagocytes also present particulate Ag on MHC class II molecules, we examined whether these Ags stimulated concomitant CD4 T cell immunity. Although the priming of CD4 T cells with soluble OVA required adjuvants, particulate Ag was stimulatory when injected in saline. We next examined whether CD4 T cell responses played a role in the generation of CTL to particulate Ag. At low concentrations of Ag, OVA primed CTLs in wild-type mice but not in MHC class II-deficient animals, indicating that MHC class II presentation of Ag was essential for CTL generation. These data both support a model where CD4 T cells collaborate with CTLs as part of a three-cell interaction and identify a phagocyte as the third cell in this reaction. Interestingly, injection of higher concentrations of the same Ag primed equivalent CTL responses in both wild-type and MHC class II-deficient mice. These results indicate that a key variable in determining whether CTL generation is helper cell dependent or independent is the dose of immunogen. This may explain in part why CTL responses to abundant Ags, such as viruses, tend to be helper independent, while responses to less abundant Ags, such as minor histocompatibility Ags, require T helper cells. In addition, these results also point to the potential of using particulate Ags to prime or boost responses in settings with CD4 immunodeficiency.

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