A mortality assay was used to quantitate graft-versus-host (GVH) reactions in sublethally irradiated (400 R) neonatal (C57BL/6 x BALB/c)F1 recipients of BALB/c lymphoid cells from various tissues. The probit of the 35 day cumulative per cent of mortality was a linear function of the logarithm of the cell inoculum for any tissue; reactivities of different tissues fell on a series of parallel lines. Peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL), the most active cells, were about 30 times as active as thymocytes, the least active cells studied; femoral lymph node cells and spleen cells were about 23 and 8 times as reactive as thymocytes, respectively. The average survival time of recipients of thymocytes who eventually died was nearly a week longer than that of recipients of comparably lethal numbers of PBL, lymph node, or spleen cells.
Mixtures of PBL and thymocytes gave levels of 35 day mortality significantly greater than those expected if the reactivities of the mixture had been merely the sum of the reactivities of the components measured separately, thereby confirming in any assay independent of host splenomegaly the synergistic interaction of thymocytes and PBL in the GVH reaction. Both populations of cells in the mixture had to be allogeneic to the host in order to observe this synergy.
The kinetics of cumulative mortality observed for mixtures of PBL and thymocytes were indistinguishable from those seen with thymocytes alone, indicating activation of the latter cell type. Finally, comparison of the relative abilities of different cell populations to cause splenomegaly on the one hand and lethal runting on the other has raised the possibility that expression of different effector functions of cell-mediated immune reactions may in fact be initiated by distinct cells.