Genetic regulation of immunological responsiveness was studied at the cellular level by comparing the limiting dilutions of immunocompetent cells from spleen, thymus, and bone marrow of high and low responders as a function of the poly-L-prolyl and poly-DL-alanyl side chains of two synthetic polypeptide immunogens. The spleens of immunized and unimmunized high responder DBA/1 mice were found to contain respectively, 18- and 7-fold more limiting precursor cells specific for (Phe, G)-A--L than the spleens of SJL low responder donors. These results, using a synthetic polypeptide built on multichain poly-DL-alanine, confirm the findings reported for polypeptides built on multichain poly-L-proline (1, 2), that there is a direct correlation between immune response potential and the relative number of immunocompetent precursors stimulated.
Cell cooperation between thymocytes and bone marrow cells was demonstrated for both (T, G)-Pro--L and (Phe, G)-A--L. Limiting dilutions of thymus and bone marrow cells in the presence of an excess amount of the complementary cell type indicated an eightfold lower number of detected (T, G)-Pro--L-specific precursors in DBA/1 (low responder) marrow when compared with SJL (high responder) marrow. No differences were observed in the frequency of relevant high and low responder thymocytes for the (T, G)-Pro--L immunogen. These results are similar to those reported for the (Phe, G)-Pro--L (3). In contrast to the cellular studies reported for the Pro--L series of immunogens, the marrow and thymus cell dilution experiments for (Phe, G)-A--L revealed genetically associated differences in both the marrow and thymus populations of immunocytes from high (DBA/1) and low (SJL) responders. In addition to a fivefold difference in limiting marrow cell precursors (similar to that seen in the Pro--L studies), a striking difference was observed between the helper cell activity of high responder DBA/1 and low responder SJL thymocytes. This difference was indicated by the observation that low responder thymocyte dilutions followed the predictions of the Poisson model, whereas dilutions of high responder thymocytes did not conform to Poisson statistics. Transfers of allogeneic thymus and marrow cell mixtures from DBA/1 and SJL donors confirmed the syngeneic dilution studies showing that the genetic defect of immune responsiveness to (Phe, G)-A--L is expressed at both the thymus and marrow immunocompetent cell level.
The parameters presently known for genetic control of immune responses specific for (Phe, G) (Ir-1 gene) and for Pro--L (Ir-3 gene) have been compared. The Ir-1 and Ir-3 genes are not only distinct by genetic linkage tests (to H-2) (5, 6, 9), but they are also seen to be different by cellular studies. Furthermore, expression of low responsiveness within a given cell population was shown to depend on the chemical structure of the whole immunogenic macromolecule.