Utilizing techniques of passive transfer, we have investigated the factors responsible for production of fever when tuberculin is given intravenously to specifically sensitized rabbits.
The ability to develop a febrile response to tuberculin could be passively transferred to normal recipients with viable mononuclear cells from peritoneal exudates, spleen, or lymph nodes of donor rabbits sensitized with BCG. Sensitivity was usually apparent 48 hr after transfer, maximal at 7 to 14 days, and rapidly declined thereafter. Granulocytes and nonviable, sonicated, mononuclear cells from similarly sensitized donors were unable to transfer this form of reactivity.
Passive transfer of reactivity was also effected with plasma and serum, suggesting that the reaction of antibody with antigen contained in tuberculin is one of the initial steps by which the host cells are activated to release the endogenous pyrogen (EP) that mediates this form of hypersensitivity fever.
An intravenous infusion of granulocytes, as well as of several types of mononuclear cells from sensitized donors, made most recipients responsive to the pyrogenic effect of old tuberculin (OT) given 2 hr later. Some of these passively transferred cells, such as the granulocyte and alveolar macrophage, may be activated in vivo by OT, as they are in vitro. However, in the case of splenic and lymph node cells that cannot be activated by OT to produce EP in vitro, it seems likely that an intravenous injection of OT causes these transferred, sensitized cells to liberate an intermediate substance that either directly, or in association with antigen, activates the host's normal cells to produce EP.
In support of previous suggestions that leukocytes of several types, as well as phagocytic cells of the reticuloendothelial system, serve as potential sources of EP in tuberculin-induced fever, evidence was presented that OT also activates both granulocytes and mononuclear cells from sterile exudates of BCG-sensitized donors to produce EP in vitro.