SJL mice are high responders to the synthetic multichain polypeptide antigen (T,G)-Pro--L, whereas DBA/1 mice are low responders (10, 11). In order to determine whether the genetic control of immune response can be correlated with the number of antigen-sensitive precursor cells, spleen cell suspensions from normal and immunized SJL and DBA/1 donor mice were transplanted into lethally X-irradiated syngeneic recipients (incapable of immune response) along with (T, G)-Pro--L. Anti-(T, G)-Pro--L responses (donor-derived) were assayed in the sera of the hosts 12–16 days later. By transplanting graded and limiting numbers of spleen cells, inocula were found which contained one or a few antigen-sensitive precursors reactive with the immunogen. Using this method to estimate the relative numbers of such cells for the high responder SJL strain, one precursor was detected in ∼1.3 x 106 and ∼7.2 x 106 spleen cells from immunized and normal donors, respectively. In contrast, one precursor was detected in about 30 x 106 spleen cells from low responder DBA/1 mice, irrespective of whether the donors had been immunized.
These results indicate that the genetic control of immunity to the synthetic polypeptide antigen investigated is directly correlated to the relative number of precursor cells reactive with the immunogen in high and low responder strains.