A set of conditions has been described under which primed rabbit lymph nodes produce a secondary antibody response upon in vivo stimulation with a large dose of antigen, but are subsequently "exhausted;" that is, lymph node cultures prepared at intervals following the booster injection cannot be re-stimulated to display tertiary responses. Rabbits given 100-fold less antigen in the booster inoculum were able to give a tertiary response upon in vitro challenge. The system used permits neither induction nor continuation of a primary response to BSA in vitro. Since it could be demonstrated that no memory cells were generated by the booster injection within the intervals between in vivo injection and culture, the tertiary response in nonexhausted nodes must have been due to residual memory cells which remained untriggered by the in vivo booster injection.
The unresponsive state was not caused by antibody feedback.
These results are interpreted to mean that a population of memory cells can be exhausted by a supraoptimal dose of antigen, rendering the node temporarily incapable of further response. This implies that long-lived memory is not due to asymmetric division of memory cells. The source and fate of memory cells is discussed with regard to this evidence.