In the 4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl acetyl (NP) contact sensitivity system, the activity of third-order suppressor cells and their factors is restricted by H-2(I-J) and Igh linked genes. The present report analyzes the specificity of NP-specific Ts3 cells and factors derived from H-2 and Igh heterozygous (B6 X C3H)F1 mice. Two approaches were used. First, heterogeneous populations of F1 Ts3 cells were activated in vitro and then assayed in Ts3-depleted recipients which carried different combinations of H-2 and Igh alleles. The second approach was to hybridize the Ts3 cells and analyze the specificity of the F1-derived TsF3. The combined data demonstrated four functionally distinct populations of Ts3 cells. The activity of each population was restricted by a particular combination of H-2 and Igh haplotypes. Thus, Ts3 cells derived from F1 donors can demonstrate an apparent scrambling of H-2 and Igh restriction specificities. There was functional allelic exclusion of the H-2(I-J) and Igh determinants expressed on (B6 X C3H)F1 hybridoma-derived TsF3. Thus, TsF3 from each cloned hybridoma line expressed only one set of I-J and Igh determinants. Furthermore, there was a complete correlation between the I-J and Igh linked determinants expressed on TsF3 and the restriction specificity. In view of the recent findings on the molecular biology of the I-J region, an alternative interpretation of the role of I-J determinants on suppressor cells and factors is offered.

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