T lymphocytes recognize the synthetic polypeptides GA and GLT and the natural antigen LDHB and are thereby stimulated to proliferate in vitro. Simultaneously with the antigen, T cells recognize class II MHC molecules of the antigen-presenting cell and the T-cell proliferation can therefore be inhibited by the addition of monoclonal antibodies specific for either A (AαAβ) or E (EαFβ) molecules. Antibody blocking of in vitro responses thus provides an opportunity to test the rules governing the selection of class II molecules (A versus E) in the recognition of different antigens. To determine these rules we tested T cells for some 40 strains (classical inbred strains and B10.W lines) carrying H-2 haplotypes derived from wild mice) for their proliferative response to GA, GLT, and LDHB. Strains that responded were then tested in the antibody-blocking assay to determine the class II context of the response. The response to GA occurred always in the context of the A molecule; no single instance was found of the response being channelled through the E molecule. Of the 19 different A molecules (A allomorphs) that could be tested, nine (47 percent) were able to provide the context for GA recognition (and hence conferred responsiveness), while the rest failed to do so (conferred nonresponsiveness). Of the 17 informative cases tested for the response to LDHB, 14 channelled the response through the A molecule, while, in the remaining cases, the cells failed to respond altogether. And again, there was no case where the response was channelled through the E molecule. However, in two instances (of 14) the E molecule provided the context for the stimulation of suppressor T cells, which then suppressed the response of helper T cells occurring in the context of the A molecule. Of the 19 cases tested for the response to GLT, eight channelled the response through the E molecule and two through the A molecule. The two cases of an E → A switch were those in which the strains failed to express cell-surface E molecules as a result of a mutation in one of the E-encoding loci. These data indicate a remarkable but puzzling consistency in the channelling of the response to a given antigen via either A or E molecules. This consistency may be a hint that there is a link between the specificity of antigen (nonself) and MHC (self) recognition by T lymphocytes.
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