When spleen, mesenteric lymph node, or Peyer's patch cells from mice primed 24 h before with either sheep erythrocytes (SRC) or horse erythrocytes (HRC) were transferred together with both SRC and HRC to irradiated mice, antibody responses measured 7 days later were very low to the priming antigen but high to the other antigen. This was demonstrated either by measuring numbers of antibody-forming cells in spleen or levels of hemagglutinins in serum. Specific unresponsiveness of the transferred cells was evident in both the 19S and 7S responses. It was observed only when strict experimental conditions were followed: (a) the cell donors had to be primed with not less than 109 erythrocytes given intravenously; (b) the cells had to be transferred between 1 and 2 days after antigen priming; (c) antibody responses in the recipients were measured within 7 days of cell transfer, i.e., partial recovery was evident by 11 days; (d) the transferred cells had to be challenged in the recipients within 1 day after cell transfer: when challenge was delayed for 5 days or longer, responsiveness returned.
The failure of cells from recently primed donors to respond to the priming antigen on adoptive transfer could be overcome by supplementing with normal spleen cells, but not with thymus alone or bone marrow alone. This implied that unresponsiveness occurred at the levels of both T and B lymphocytes, and was not due to a suppressive influence exerted by T cells. Further work is in progress to determine the mechanism of this transient state of specific unresponsiveness.