Spleens from Moloney sarcoma virus (MSV) tumor-bearing C57BL/6N mice contained four times the normal number of mononuclear cells and displayed a markedly elevated "spontaneous" (mitogen-independent) DNA synthesis on a per cell basis. The number of macrophages were increased three-fold while there was a slight reduction in the percentage of T lymphocytes. The phytohemagglutinin (PHA) response on a per cell basis of spleens from tumor-bearing mice was decreased about 90% when compared with normal control mice. The primary in vitro immune response to sheep red blood cells was also suppressed to levels of less than 10% of normals.
The PHA response could be restored by purification of MSV spleen cells by rayon adherence columns and by removal of phagocytic cells by an iron/magnet technique. The activity of suppressor cells in MSV spleens was demonstrated in mixtures with syngeneic normal spleen cells where a marked impairment of the PHA response was observed. Spleen cells from tumor-free nude mice and normal spleen cells treated by anti-θ serum plus guinea pig complement (C'), both totally unreactive to PHA, had no such effect. The inhibitor cell in MSV spleens was shown to be insensitive to inactivation by anti-θ plus C', but could be removed by the adherence columns and the iron/magnet technique. These data suggest that this suppressor cell is a cell of the monocyte/macrophage series. Suggestive evidence was also presented that the suppressor cells belong to a proliferating population in MSV spleens. Similar suppressor cells have been previously demonstrated in spleens of mice during a variety of immune responses. Our data show, that a tumor, although stimulating the immune system, nevertheless may be suppressive on certain immune functions through the activation of suppressor cells.