Previous cellular studies on the genetic regulation of immunological responsiveness for two immunopotent regions within the branched chain synthetic polypeptide (Phe, G)-Pro--L demonstrated a direct correlation between the number of detectable immunocompetent splenic precursor cells and the response patterns of SJL, DBA/1, and F1 mice (21). In order to establish the cellular origin(s) of the genetic defect, the present study first demonstrated that thymus and bone marrow cell cooperation was required for (Phe, G)- and Pro--L-specific immune responses. Secondly, limiting dilution experiments, in which several graded and limiting inocula of marrow cells were mixed with a non-limiting number of 108 thymocytes and injected into irradiated, syngeneic recipients, indicated that the low responsiveness of the SJL and DBA/1 strains to the (Phe, G) and Pro--L specificities, respectively, could be attributed to a reduced number of precursor cells found in bone marrow. About five times more marrow precursors were detected in SJL mice for Pro--L than for (Phe, G), whereas about five times as many precursor cells were estimated for (Phe, G) as for Pro--L in the DBA/1 strain. These differences are similar to those obtained using spleen cells from unimmunized SJL and DBA/1 donors (21), and indicate that these genetically determined variations in responsiveness can be accounted for by differences in the frequencies of monospecific populations of immunocompetent cells present in bone marrow.
In contrast, limiting dilution transfers of thymocytes or thymus-derived cells with an excess of syngeneic marrow cells resulted in equally frequent (Phe, G) and Pro--L responses for both SJL ad DBA/1 strains. This finding in conjunction with the observation that the generation of (Phe, G)- and Pro--L-specific responses were associated in individual recipients injected with limiting inocula of thymocytes indicated that a single population of thymocytes was stimulated by (Phe,G)-Pro--L. Therefore, it is improbable that the thymic population of immunocompetent cells contributes to expression of these genetically controlled defects.