The presence of concanavalin A (Con A) inhibits the immune response of mouse spleen cell suspensions to erythrocyte antigens, stimulates the incorporation of tritiated thymidine, and increases cell recovery. Con A also restores the depressed response of cell preparations treated to remove thymus-derived cells. The dose-response curve for all four effects shows peak activity at 2 µg/ml. The depressed in vitro response of spleen cell suspensions from adult thymectomized, irradiated, bone marrow-restored mice is also restored by Con A. Here the dose-response curve is quite different with activity over a much wider range of concentration. The restoration of thymus-derived cell-depleted cultures by Con A is inhibited by the addition of untreated, unirradiated, mouse spleen cell suspensions, but is not inhibited by untreated, irradiated cells.
Small numbers of spleen cells that have been preincubated with Con A and washed will inhibit the response of fresh, untreated cells to antigen. If the mouse spleen cell suspensions are incubated for 24 hr before the addition of Con A, the response to antigen is no longer inhibited but is stimulated instead.
The data are compatible with the hypothesis that there are at least two cell targets for the action of Con A. One cell, that mediates the inhibitor effect, is a short-lived, radiosensitive, thymus-derived cell. The other cell, that mediates the stimulating effect, cannot be identified from the data presented here but may also be of thymus origin on the basis of studies by other investigators.