After immunization with trinitrophenyl (TNP)-Ficoll, mice produced both anti-TNP antibodies and auto-anti-idiotype (auto-anti-Id) antibodies specific for the anti-TNP antibody. Older animals produced more auto-anti-Id than did young animals. When mice were exposed to a normally lethal dose of irradiation while their bone marrow (BM) was partially shielded, they survived and slowly (6 wk) regained immune function, as indicated by the number of nucleated cells in their spleen and the in vitro primary plaque-forming cell (PFC) response of their spleen cells to TNP-treated aminoethylated polyacrylamide beads. Recovery is presumably the result of repopulation of the peripheral lymphoid system by cells originating in the BM. By enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and by hapten-augmentable PFC assay, we show that, after recovery from irradiation with their BM shielded, old animals produce low auto-anti-Id responses, like those of young animals. The transfer of splenic T cells into mice irradiated with their BM shielded provided evidence that the magnitude of the auto-anti-Id response is controlled by the peripheral T cells. Thus, mice that received splenic T cells from aged donors produced high levels of auto-anti-Id while those that received splenic T cells from young donors produce low levels of auto-anti-Id.

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