These studies explore the phenomenon of cyclosporine-induced autoimmunity in irradiated Lewis rats. We show that (a) the presence of a thymus is required, and autoimmune precursors develop in and exit from this organ to the peripheral lymphocyte pool within a 2-wk period after the initiation of cyclosporine treatment; (b) adoptive transfers of drug-induced autoimmunity to irradiated secondary recipients can be accomplished with relatively few cells of the Th subset, and these transfers of autoimmunity can be blocked by cotransfer of normal lymphoid cells; and (c) potency estimates, using popliteal lymph node assays in syngeneic and F1 recipients indicate similar levels of auto- and alloreactivity by cells from drug-induced autoimmune donors. These various findings indicate that this particular animal model may be useful for studies of the onset and control of autoimmunity, and they raise the possibility that the lack of autoimmunity in normal animals and its induction with cyclosporine may involve similar cellular mechanism as have been found to be operative in GVH reactions and specifically induced immunologic resistance to GVHD.

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