A number of recent studies have suggested that the main functional role of the product of the immune response (Ir) genes is in the process of antigen recognition by the T lymphocyte. The observation in the accompanying report that the interaction of macrophage-associated antigen with immune T lymphocytes requires that both cells share histocompatibility antigens raised the question as to whether the macrophage played a role in the genetic control of the immune response or even if the macrophage were the primary cell in which the product of the Ir gene is expressed. In the current study, parental macrophages were pulsed with an antigen, the response to which is controlled by an Ir gene lacking in that parent; these macrophages were then mixed with T cells derived from the (nonresponder x responder)F1 and the resultant stimulation was measured. No stimulation was seen when column-purified F1 lymph node lymphocytes were mixed with antigen-pulsed macrophages from the nonresponder parent. However, when the highly reactive peritoneal exudate lymphocyte population was used as the indicator cells, parental macrophages pulsed with an antigen whose Ir gene they lacked were capable of initiating F1 T-cell proliferation. The magnitude of stimulation was approximately 1/10 that seen when macrophages from either the responder parent or the F1 were used. In order to explain this observation, we hypothesize that antigen recognition sites on the T lymphocyte are physically related to a macrophage-binding site and both are linked to the serologically determined histocompatibility antigens. Thus, parental macrophages pulsed with an antigen, whose Ir gene they lack, activate F1 cells poorly because the recognition sites for the antigen are physically related to the macrophage-binding site of the responder parent while the main contacts between the cells are at the nonresponder binding sites. Experiments performed with alloantisera lend support to this hypothesis. Thus, when parental macrophages are pulsed with any antigen and added to F1 T cells, an alloantiserum directed against parental histocompatibility antigens reacts with both the lymphocyte and the macrophage and thereby inhibits macrophage-lymphocyte interaction and abolishes antigen-induced lymphocyte transformation. When the alloantisera are directed at determinants present solely on the T lymphocyte, they only inhibit the recognition of antigens controlled by the Ir gene linked to the histocompatibility antigen against which they are directed. We conclude from these studies that antigen recognition by the T lymphocyte is a complex multicellular event involving more than simple antigen binding to a specific lymphocyte receptor.

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